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A submissive hooker goes about her trade, suffering abuse at the hands of Japanese salarymen and Yakuza types. She's unhappy about her work, and is apparently trying to find some sort of appeasement for the fact that her lover has married. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
Murakakmi's Tokyo Decadence starts out powerfully with an unflinching look at the shifts put in as a 'Delivery Health' (as these women get called in 21s century Japan) by hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, Miho Nikaido. The crisp colours, seductive light and slowly dollying camera give a high productive sheen to the mesmerising scenes of Nikaido being humiliated by a Yakuza couple, then assisting a dominatrix in the wished-for degradation of one of her regular johns.
Murakami seems to be highlighting the amorality of Bubble-rich Japan, his characters speechifying against the 'real' whores in the corporate and government fields. The sexual and comedy elements are well-balanced, the highlight being the lost dildo in the toilet scene. Nikaido shows an impressive range, both vulnerable in and enraptured by her line of work. She also enlivens a long walk with a wild-eyed look she achieves in the film's final third.
However, her performance cannot rescue the meandering, insipid final episode when Nikaido goes in search of her true love. The introduction of a 'courage' pill is a clumsy plot device. The final section lacks clarity, and even continuity seems to be a minor concern. It is as if Murakami, having established his world so finely in the first half, is now at a loss regarding what he wants to say about it. A series of episodic and uninspiring tableaux plays out, the slightly surreal elements being the only thing that stops it from descending into an old-fashioned morality tale.
Tokyo Decadence is a film of two halves, with the director only trying in the first.
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