13 September 2014 | Dekkappai
Satô lite; enjoyable, but "safe"
This is a mainstream film from celebrated Pink film director Hisayasu Satô. Predictably-- and unfortunately, for his fans-- his move to the mainstream has taken a lot of the edginess off his style. With the extreme and shocking subject matter of his early work, combined with a strong style, thematic depth, and obvious intelligence, Satô was one of the most exciting directors working in Pink film in the '80s and '90s. The general consensus then was that he was "too good" for that low-budget, independent, erotic film genre.
This film deals with the hardcore Adult Video industry, in which Satô worked for a time, though he is known best for work in the softcore Pink industry. But in spite of a couple nude and sex scenes, and one hilarious, but too-brief taste of his Grand Guignolesque "splatter" roots, this film feels "safe". He doesn't portray AV as exceedingly sleazy, but there is some implied criticism of the industry. Given his own work in the field, and the gleeful bouts of gore, violence and perversion in which Satô indulged in his early Pink glory days, this seems surprising. For example we are supposed to be shocked that Lulu has been hired to perform in a rape scene, yet a survey of Satô's own filmography will show multiple rapes, mutilations, bestiality, autocannibalism... you name it...
The cast, from the major roles to the minor, is quite good. Norie Yasui is very cute, and competently carries the split-personality lead role-- the withdrawn Junko, and the extroverted, bubbly "Lulu". "Lulu" is annoyingly overly-saccharine, but then, she's supposed to be that way. And both characters-- Lulu and Junko-- grow and mature during the course of the film. Makiko Watanabe stands out as Junko's over-sexed mother. I also enjoyed Ini Kusano as Lulu's overweight, obsessed, stalker fan. His character is a darkly humorous reflection of some of the horrifying sexual predators to be seen in Satô's earlier work.
Many of Satô's most common themes are at play here-- urban alienation, isolation, obsessions, suicide, examinations of individual identity and interpersonal relationships, the dehumanizing, gazing eye of the camera, and all that other fun stuff-- but without the extremes of sex, violence, gore, and general insanity that make his earlier work such an exhilarating, if unsettling viewing experience. Some of the shots in this film, such as an isolated individual in the midst of a teeming Tokyo street scene, could have come right out of some of his best Pink work. But in comparison with the take-no-prisoners mayhem of Satô's earlier work, this one seems tame.
This is a decent, if not spectacular film, and it held my attention from beginning to end. I recommend it highly for any fan of Satô's work, as a look at what the infant terrible of '80s Pink is up to these days, and I recommend it moderately for anyone else interested in contemporary Japanese cinema.