Dynamite Graffiti (Suteki na dainamaito sukyandaru) (2018) [New York Asian Film Festival 2018]

In this biographical film, the viewer follows the rise and fall of porn magazine creator and runner Akira Suei.

Written and directed by Masanori Tominaga and based on the autobiography by Akira Suei, the film starts in the 1980s and goes back and forth in time, showing important moments in his life, from his childhood, including his mother blowing herself up, to his meeting his wife to his life painting cabaret billboards and then building his pornographic magazine empire. The film shows this in a light that lets the viewer makes up their own mind about Suei and his work and in a way that does not condone or condemn any of it. It shows things as they were and raises a few questions about censorship and morality policing.

The cast is led by actor Tasuku Emoto who does great work showing the life and times of Akira Suei. He takes the character and creates a study of a man who came to be and became successful in another time, one without internet and when censorship was very much alive and well. His interpretation takes the character and makes him interesting to watch while making him very very human. His work here is all in the nuances and the small details. He clearly studied his character before building it for the screen and making him kind of his own. Acting alongside Tasuku Emoto are Atsuko Maeda, Machiko Ono, and Toko Miura who all do good work and play their characters as mostly restrained people working and living in a world that is both filled with nakedness and rules, a world where money is made with pornography while society wants it seen as wrong and immoral. It may be taking place in the past, but much of the issues at hand are very contemporary.

These characters and the story are shot with a flare that is very much the film’s own by cinematographer Yuta Tsukinaga who shoots the images in a soft, flattering manner mostly throughout the film. The images he creates fit the way Suei is portrayed and the world he lives in. The cinematography gives each era the film takes place in a subtly distinct look, working small details in images and their styles. Accompanying this is the music by Naruyoshi Kikuchi which works well with the story and the character while feeling like a very interesting choice to go with the images and the way the film is going and evolving.

Dynamite Graffiti takes an interesting look at Akira Suei’s life and work through his own eyes as the film is based off of his autobiography. His work is shown from the inside as in how he did it and a bit of why he did it. He is shown along with this work without pre-judgment and without offering a direction for the viewer to think about it all. It leaves a lot up to the viewer and doesn’t fully explain everything. The film looks great and the music is greatly interesting. The film is a bit long, but it works for it and is easy to watch while it bring up a few questions about censorship, morality, and who should decide what is available for sales in the entertainment market.

New York Asian Film Festival 2018 runs from June 29th to July 15th, 2018.