Izumi (Kagurazaka) lives an ordered life with her punctual novelist husband (Tsuda), but loving him isn't enough. While working in a local supermarket, she secretly accepts an invitation to pose as a scantily clad model. But this is actually a front for porn, which she proves rather adept at. Yet even as she begins to explore her sexuality, she maintains her role back home as the young, dutiful wife. Then she meets the hooker Mitsuko (Togashi), who also has a secret life and teaches her the ropes.
Sono writes and directs with a sharp sense of black humour that contrasts Izumi's sexual awakening with the a policewoman (Mizuno) investigating a hideous double murder in a "love hotel". Indeed, things quickly turn dark as Izumi's odyssey takes some extreme twists and turns. Visually the film is lurid and colourful, packed with lively characters, illicit liaisons and intense conversations.
As a result, the performances are full-on. Kagurazaka carries us through Izumi's boredom, curiosity, exploration and indulgence with an earthy, raw yearning, and that's just the film's first half-hour. Where it goes is unpredictable and sometimes horrific. Intriguingly, Sono also peppers the film with literary references, turning it into a deranged variation on Dickensian squalor or Bronte-style girl power. Meanwhile, danger lurks everywhere as Izumi descends into this Kafkaesque Wonderland.
Finding meaning in here is a bit trickier, especially as the plot spirals out of control. Is Sono exploring female empowerment through women who use their bodies to control brutish men? Having sex for money is depicted as providing power and liberation, but he seems to be saying that this lifestyle will lead to a nasty end. But whether Sono is saying that women have all the power or that they should have it, his filmmaking is so provocative and audacious that it's well worth a look. And his strongest message is that life is best when it's approached at full-tilt. So is filmmaking.
Run time: 144 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 12th November 2011
Distributed by: Olive Films
Production compaines: Nikkatsu, Django Film
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Sion Sono
Producer: Yoshinori Chiba, Nobuhiro Iizuka
Screenwriter: Sion Sono
Starring: Miki Mizuno as Kazuko Yoshida, Makoto Togashi as Mitsuko Ozawa, Megumi Kagurazaka as Izumi Kikuchi, Satoshi Nikaido as Masao Yoshida, Ryûju Kobayashi as Kaoru, Motoki Fukami as Eri Doi, Hisako Ôkata as Shizu Ozawa, Marie Machida as Mari, Kanji Tsuda as Yukio Kikuchi
Also starring: Yoshinori Chiba
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