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First off: The version of the film I rented was ~100-101 minutes, as opposed to both the 105 minute figure listed at IMDB and other places and the 85 or 89 minutes listed on the back of the sleeve. However, there were a few tape glitches, and it looked like there might have been credits chopped off at the end. So I don't think this is an edit or anything. At any rate, the 8X minute figure is right out.
Secondly: Unfortunately, the picture quality was really bad – it was a DVD-R (put out by 5 Minutes To Live, actually, but really, really old – the DVD menu was, well, basically what you'd expect from really early authoring software) taken from an N-th Generation VHS copy with loads of tape errors and whatnot; blurry picture (the stills are obviously taken from the new DVD) and white subtitles that often blended into the picture and didn't seem to translate everything. It looked like this boot predated the Legit Region 2 Copy (from which the still appears to have been taken), which appears to be the one to get and the one I'm planning on picking up.
But, OK, the film: It is really good. I would totally have been happy had I just blind-bought this, even though it costs 40-50 bucks from Japan. I've only seen it once through, and I think I'm going to have to see it again (er, I know I'm going to have to see it again) but it's really well done. And, uh, yeah – it's pretty obviously an inspiration for Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange. It'd be really interesting to do a Double Feature of the two movies, I think.
The rough outline – it's a retelling of Oedipus Rex, only about a trans person (a "Gay Bar Boy", as they're referred to in the film) who works her way up in the Gay Bar scene and, well, uh, yeah. You can probably guess what with the Oedipus-reference. But yeah. There's SO much more to it than that, though, but I think revealing much more would spoil the fun.
I'm not going to go too much into the structure or whatnot, but it's very well done. There's only one bit that I think could have been trimmed a little, and the beginning is a little slow. It's not my New Favorite Movie, but it's damned good, and I want to see more of Matsumoto's stuff. (Apparently there's a 4-5 DVD box set in Japan – all but one disc, apparently, are subtitled.) It's really well made; I don't get any sort of "exploitation film" vibe from this at all. I'd love to see a better print of this, though, which means I'm basically putting the japanese one on my Non-Literal Wish List. I wish there were a (legit) US version; apparently the Criterion Collection is doing a Cult-Film Sub-Label – this would be perfect for that (if not the Criterion Collection proper).
If you dig this, I also recommend Branded to Kill by Seijun Suzuki (available on the Criterion Collection) and to a lesser extent its remake-sequel Pistol Opera, also by Seijun Suzuki (it's good, but a little over-indulgent). But yeah – I totally want a real copy of this. It is outstanding.
I don't want to do spoiler stuff, but I tend to prefer to go into films basically semi-blind, but I know other folks aren't that way. But yeah – excellent film. There's a lot to say about it. (One thing I thought was interesting/cool: The trans people are all way more glamourous/sexy than any of the biological women in the film. As one of them says (in a reall amusing scene which also happens to be pretty ACO-y) "Men don't stare at JUST women", and they make that point pretty well.)
Anyway, though, yeah – this is definitely a film to check out.