The 1981 American film Tattoo told the story of an artist whose obsession with the woman he loves leads to his covering her body with irremovable tattoos. This film has little to recommend it. On the other hand, the strikingly similar Japanese Irezumi (Spirit to Tattoo) is a consistently fascinating tale of sexual obsession and fetishism. Perhaps this is because the Japanese film is told from the point of view of the woman who allows her bare back to be "decorated" at the insistence of her lover. The film also makes a potent cultural statement: by permitting her body to be tattooed, the woman is defying a traditional taboo against this form of artistic expression. Whereas the balance of power in Tattoo was in the hands of the victimizer, Irezumi suggests that the so-called victim might be wielding more power than anyone suspects.
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