Porno gets little respect as a film genre in the West, with its makers relegated to a ghetto that few escape. How many A-list directors in Hollywood, past or present, started by making even the milder sort of sex stuff seen on cable?

In Japan, however, the situation has been quite different, as Jasper Sharp’s excellent, exhaustive study “Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema” makes clear. Many of the leading directors in the Japanese film industry today, especially those who entered it after the studio system collapsed in the early 1970s, learned their craft in the porno industry.

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