Monday, 2 April 2012

Guilty of Romance.


Sono Sion’s ‘Hate Trilogy’ finally comes to an end with his latest movie Guilty of Romance (2011). The first, and probable the best was Love Exposure (2008) a film that really impressed me. Although it had a running time of a little over three hours it never seemed that long. Written by Sono, it’s a wonderful story of Shakespearean dimensions, featuring, amongst other weighty subjects, castration, transvestism, religious cults and lots and lots of Catholic guilt. It also poses that long-standing question “can you be a pervert with dignity”? The penultimate film in the trilogy Cold Fish (2011) is a black comedy that was apparently based on a serial killing that took place in Japan in the 1990’s. After a sedate start it descends into a manic portrayal of murder, sex and gore with some brutal and shocking scenes similar to those that can be found in Takashi Miike’s somewhat bizarre movies.

Izumi's part time work escalates.

This final film masquerades under the premise of a murder mystery that begins with the discovery of mutilated female body parts cut up and rearranged into two life size mannequins. But the heart of the story is the curious tale of Izumi (Kagurazaka Megumi) a subservient Japanese housewife married to a romantic novelist (Tsuda Kanji) who feels that at 30 years old she is becoming stagnant and drifting through life. She starts to question her very existence embarking on a journey of self-discovery that tackles the belle de jour question of the female division between wife and whore.  Without her husbands knowledge she gets part time work that progresses from selling sausages to nude photography in to porn. Izumi strikes up a friendship with a university professor (Togashi Makoto) who moonlights as a prostitute and whose mantra is ‘sex without love requires a monetary payment’. This change of lifestyle gets ever darker leading her to the ‘Castle’ which is a metaphor for the unobtainable or out of reach, bringing to mind Tarkovsky’s Room within the forbidden Zone[1].

Not your normal university professor!

As with all Sono’s movies it’s a beautifully made and choreographed film with a meaningful soundtrack that complements the action on the screen. This mesmerising experience references both Kafka’s The Castle and the poem On my way Home by Tamura Ryuichi. Kagurazaka Megumi states on the DVD extras that the director does a lot of his work with the actors before any shooting takes place and this certainly shows. A sexually explicit film for the more discerning viewer.

[1] Stalker 1979.

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