New York Asian Film Fest ’18: Our Review of ‘Dynamite Graffiti’

New York Asian Film Fest ’18: Our Review of ‘Dynamite Graffiti’

“It’s hard out here for a pornographer.”

That’s the central theme of Dynamite Graffiti, a biopic about Akira Suei, the infamous Japanese nudie-mag mogul of the 1970s and ‘80s. Suei’s constant struggles against censorship and the conservative social values of the day form the basic thrust of director Masanori Tominaga’s expansive chronicle into the life of a natural-born shit-disturber.

Working in the oft-imitated vein of GoodFellas or Boogie Nights with the breezy, fast-paced way that this nearly two and a half hour film unfolds. Tracing Suei’s roots right back to his childhood in a rural village, the story starts with an actual bang as his mother, alongside her secret lover, suddenly commits suicide by blowing herself up with dynamite. This whole event is strangely treated rather glibly, but nonetheless sets the stage for his subsequent life choices.

While Tominaga covers the events in this rise-to-fame story with enthusiasm, adding nice stylistic touches and utilizing an interesting dissonant score, the real-life person at the center of it all still remains an enigma. We never really get to know who Suei is behind the pornography, beyond the broad idea that he’s a rebel with a traumatic past. His relationships with others are given similarly short shrift and a romantic subplot that suddenly takes a dark turn isn’t fleshed out enough to have the emotional impact that it should. In telling the story of a man who basically got rich off of exploiting young women, it’s a shame that the female characters here are similarly so non-existent.

As Suei, Emoto Tasuku has a perpetual deer-in-the-headlights look that works well in the film’s more comedic moments but falters a bit when things get serious. Dynamite Graffiti definitely has its pleasures but those unfamiliar with the subject matter may find the end result somewhat confusing.

  • Release Date: 6/29/2018
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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