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|Index||12 reviews in total|
Sion Sono, the rising star of Japanese cinema, has been crafting a name
for himself with a long line of excellent and unique movies, ever since
the cult hit Suicide Club, including 2008's critically acclaimed Love
In 2011's festival circuit, including the Helsinki International Film Festival, the director was not represented by one, but TWO excellent films, "Cold Fish" and the movie under review here - "Guilty of Romance".
It is my claim that in Guilty of Romance, we have perhaps the director's best work to date - a masterpiece depicting a psychological vertigo into sublime, sensual desire (and ultimately depravity).
Guilty of Romance, in the trappings of a psychological thriller, is a surprisingly touching tale, in the rough shape of an antique tragedy, about repressed desire and the incapacity of human beings to ever find what they truly (think they) desire. The films touches on the wide scope of human emotions, ranging from the sublime to the base, from the terrifying to the ridiculous, co-existing in every human being as a terrifying, sublime possibility. All of us can be angels or demons. All of us can soar in the heavens or sink into the depths of hell. All of us are humans with our dangerous powerhouse, doubling as cesspool, of thwarted emotions and perverted desires, seething under the calm surface of our everyday lives, waiting to bubble up and turn our lives upside down - but only because our lives weren't stable to begin with (and perhaps NEEDED a bit of disturbing!)...
All this material, our "all too human" character, is explored to great end in this movie. To understand the movie, it helps to understand a bit of Freud and Lacan (and of course Kafka, who is mentioned in the story itself). But to really grasp and feel the movie, one needs, perhaps, to have been hopelessly in love, at least once in one's life, or to have felt a comparably strong passion, to understand the point where reason fails and desire takes over.
Due to Sion Sono's uncompromising style, to viewer needs to feel comfortable with his or her own emotional baggage, because the brutality and horror of the plot can strike an unwary heart as obscene - but this is only a mirage, since the themes of the movie, I claim, are perfectly ordinary and everyday, just repressed from our everyday consciousness. The film, to put it simply, conveys human desire as a burning, never-ending vertigo of passion (accurately enough) that threatens to overtake human beings even when they think they have finally reached calm and quiet in some safe haven of the soul - like in the all-too-perfect marriage of the protagonist, which quickly gives way, instead, to an exciting adventure into the world of depravity, which both liberates and ensnares our heroine.
Desire, for human beings, is the pain that we love - and loving it hurts. (If you've ever been in love, you know what I'm talking about.)
The gist of the film is that there are desires deeper than words and customs can bear. Even words need to be made into flesh... And flesh demands its reward. Desire is the fuel that can spiral us into hell, or lift us into the heavens...
That's all that can be said about the story without spoiling it. It goes through various twists and turns that need to be experienced to be fully meaningful.
If Love Exposure was Sion Sono's "War and Peace," then this film is his Mulholland Drive or Sunset Boulevard (in addition to being a loose interpretation of Kafka's "Castle") - a terrific psychological thriller with spiritual trappings, all shot in beautiful, colourful, hypnotic film. This film is simply gorgeous to look at. Every shot is like a picture frame you could hang on your wall. The film is edited together like a love letter to the most patient, intelligent, passionate and yearning person (audience?) in the world. This is not an easy film, but this is indeed a very rewarding film, both in the luxury of details and, formally, in the larger arch of the whole film's epic narrative.
The film's absorbing soundtrack, of Baroque and Classical music (typical to Sono's work of late), adds its own extra flair, and is both appropriately placed and emotionally effective. Even the colour palette of the movie works marvels to reflect the changing psychological landscape of the heroine, highlighting her descent to depravity. The fast-paced editing keeps things constantly fresh, and the structure of the film is carefully constructed to provide an impeccable vista into a spiritual maelstrom that is psychologically lurid but realistic as an allegory of human desire - despite the absurd, surreal and self-consciously Kafkaesque flourishes that accompany the tale to its tragic depths.
This movie has been accused by some reviewers as having no point beyond shock value. Indeed, it is very difficult to convey the madness of desire without seeming over-the-top. However, the potent, sensual, shocking story functions an allegory of the perverted desire trapped within the heart of every human being, and its excesses are thus justified. This fearless film, I vouch, is one of the top ten films about human desire ever made, up there with Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard, and one of the best Japanese films of the new millennium.
A great film like this is not for everyone, as should be expected, for the patient viewer, its beauty will be revealed. Let the movie be appreciated by those with eyes to see (and a heart to feel).
Summa summarum: a great film that reaches, by way of depravity, the heights of a surprising, brutal masterpiece of a psychological exploration of human desire. It shows the capacities of the art form, wrapped in the tight package of an entertaining, ridiculous and blood-thirsty two hours, well spent on a roller-coaster ride of (all-too-human) desire.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The awesomely inappropriately titled "Guilty of Romance" is Sono Sion's recent take on another dysfunctional family dynamic. It was billed as the final installment of a trilogy of movies; the first two being Love Exposure and Cold Fish. I'm not sure why these films are considered a trilogy in any way, as Sono has been making movies like this for a quite a while. Aside from the aforementioned films, Noriko's Dinner Table, Suicide Club, Strange Circus, and several others all fit a similar mold.
If you're not familiar with Sono's work, you should be. He specializes in telling stories involving family and personal relationships from a peculiarly dark perspective. Often sensationalistic, and packed full of cult like themes, sex, violence, and depravity, his films frequently leave an indelible impression on the viewer. It takes more than that to get my attention though, and, it's pretty clear this is a very talented director and writer who has delivered a number of spectacularly effective films over the years. Cold Fish is a wonderfully devious and subversive movie the daughter's final reaction to all the mayhem is worth the price of admission alone. And, I can think of very few films that can be compared to the epic (and I do mean epic) Love Exposure.
Needless to say, Sono's films aren't for everyone, and many people will find them disturbing or distasteful. Oh, and you'll definitely want to keep the kids as far away from these movies as possible. One almost has to wonder if there is something wrong with this director's mind, or, if there was some traumatic past experience that forever shaped his view of the world It's hard to imagine that any rational person could, or would want to, tell so many bizarre stories about the darker side of a person's soul. Regardless of wherever he draws his inspiration, this dude is clearly walking a fine line that often borders on being equal parts brilliant and insane. What results on screen is often fascinating to watch though, and, that's just fine by me.
Guilty of Romance follows Sono's trademark style of storytelling Everybody is a weirdo or deviant, or soon will be. Megumi Kagurazaka (who played the role of the supporting wife in Cold Fish) takes the lead here she plays the dutiful (albeit sexually repressed) wife of a famous romance novelist. Bored with her everyday housewife routine, she searches for an outlet which soon leads her down a path from light modeling to porn star to sex obsessed prostitute. Her transformation from reserved woman to sexually insatiable beast is impressive to say the least it took some guts for this actress to just take on this role, let alone embrace it the way she did; she gets naked (a lot), and she has sex (a lot), throughout this film. In addition to her blistering physical performance, Ms. Kagurazaka does an equally fine job of portraying the changing/growing thoughts & feelings of her character as one would be inclined to expect within the context of the role she was given. She single handily drives this film to be better than it should be, and, she is by far the best part of this whole endeavor.
There's 4 other primary characters in this film There's the husband (who may or may not be hiding his own secret life), the female professor (who has long since undergone her own secret sexual transformation, and whom now acts as somewhat of a mentor to Megumi's character), the mother of the professor (who doesn't take too kindly to tolerating her daughter's debauchery), and the playboy/pimp dude who helps facilitate much of the sexual goings on.
As the story progresses, all primary characters discover more about each other and themselves, while the plot unfolds towards the big finale. It's all pretty standard stuff (for a Sono film), but, there was very little that stood out or surprised me here. In fact, I was a bit disappointed overall. Whereas many of Sono's previous films have an oddly free flowing appeal to them, Guilty of Romance seems to be quite a bit more forced and contrived, if not downright pretentious .and, it's all very linear in nature. As with the case with many of his films, there's usually a character or two, or some event, that sends the protagonist on their journey of discovery, and, that's no different here. The pimp, professor, and mother, all play their part in filling this role in this instance, but I think there was far too much importance placed on the significance of each of these characters. These characters also serve to be part of a secondary story that revolves around a murder mystery this whole entire secondary story was unnecessary in my opinion, and this only served to detract from the primary focus of the film.
This film would have probably been better served to just concentrate on the role of the lead character, and, to just let the star of the film have at it! It would have been far more interesting to just observe her performance, and what the effects and outcome of her actions would ultimately have on her life and her marriage. The lead role didn't really require the heavy handed impetus of the other characters in the story handling them as more of fleeting acquaintances (similar to how the modeling scout or porno actor were implemented) would have likely worked much better overall.
Overall, I did enjoy this movie enough for the most part to recommend, and, as usual for a Sono film, it is quite memorable But, I've come to expect more from this director over the years; I guess that's the price one must continually pay for repeated success. Worth it alone, though, just for Megumi Kagurazaka's incredible performance.
6-7 out of 10 stars should do it I'll give it a 7.
P.S. This film borders on being a stylized soft core porn film with a story to tell So, Viewer Beware!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An excellent film, beautifully filmed and acted, reminiscent in many
ways of Bunuel's Belle de Jour and Godard's Vivre Sa Vie.
It's quite difficult to write more than this without including spoilers, but I'll try. The initial plot's very simple: we have a very subservient wife of a famous but somewhat trashy novelist living a very affluent life but not giving her any attention, sexually or in any other way with the possible exception of being extremely demanding of precision domesticity. Naturally this woman, about to turn 30 is frustrated (or rather, very confused by her situation) and when the offer of glamour modelling and a couple of sexually aggressive men come her way, things start to change.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From Nikkatsu company came yet another title that fills the genre quota
for the past year (thriller / erotica). Unfortunately, the only
mystical thing about this piece is rumor that there are two versions,
one of 144 minutes for Japanese market, and less than 2 hours version
for the rest of the world (I cannot find longer version myself). For
agitated fans, Sono stated that non of them is directors cut, but he
just loves both versions...
There are three intertwined stories of a female characters, one of a housewife, other of a cop and third of professor which all come together in the end. While professor is not as intense as the housewife, cop is barely important and poorly presented. Professor (by day and prostitute by night) is responsible for the awakening of main character.
Housewife Izumi, whose roll in society is masochistic by itself (many would agree) is slave of her cold husbands habits (lining up the slippers, making tea with a hourglass). Izumi is sexually unsatisfied and unfulfilled, and he is asexual (at first sight) and famous for writing and publicly reading his erotic novels. As soon as Izumi gets her first chance for sexual blooming and upheaval she does it by the book: naked photos, sex on video, prostitution... Her sexuality, thus, rises from housewife, who wants to be pleased, to prostitute who wants to please. House perversions of Izumis's husband culminates with sexual perversions which are far more appropriate than those that were happening in the house. Izumi, with her newly gained sexual freedoms, wants to start working. She finds a job as sausage salesgirl and in time, even sausages get bigger as her sexual appetite grows. While Izumi worked only for her husband (as housewife) she was completely deprived of pleasure (and romance), but together with first money came first 'sausage' of pleasure.
Tokyo and explosions of colors (and balloons) in combination with intense classical music is, in a way, a reason why you should see this film. Twice. And Izumi's balloons, of course. In the end, I could say that many are guilty of something here, including the director, but they are definitely 'not guilty of romance'.
A female detective arrives straight from indulging her extra-marital
affair to a crime scene where the mutilated sexual organs of a female
victim have been re-combined with a mannequin. We then follow three
female protagonists in an ostensible exploration of female sexuality.
Sex and murder in the first sixty seconds, part of an impressive sequence that presents bold, dark colours and incessant rain, and promises to analyse the margins of the human psyche in the vein of Seven.
Sion, unfortunately, fails to deliver on the promise, instead indulging his juvenile penchant for sexual humiliation and big sausage jokes. One character drones on endlessly in pseudo-philosophical terms about female sexuality, dressed up for intellectual effect by lacing in Kafka, the females all the while slipping over to the 'dark' side. However, the sex scenes go on too long and are very stagey. The paint balls and asphyxiophilia don't seem to comment on anything except Sono's immaturity. The criminal investigation is non-existent as the detective visits crime scenes, has phone sex, then has the murderer handed to her on a plate. Two of the three females are both indulgent of and ashamed of their sexuality, while the third has an implausible double life as university professor and prostitute. (Coincidentally, the true story that this character is based on is a much more prosaic and toned-down affair).
Sono sets out an interesting stall and there are some juicy dark themes to be explored here, but his writing is not up to the task. He is both fascinated and appalled by female sexuality, and ends up fetishizing it. The camera's gaze on the women is prurient and voyeuristic. Contrast this with the representation of the men who populate the film; servicing the adult films, pimping the women, paying to be johns... They sit on the margins of the frame, their behaviour taken for granted and natural. Only female sexuality is in any way problematized.
Where Sono does excel is in the performances he gleans from his leads. Miki Mizuno as detective Kazuko Yoshida is a charismatic presence who deserved more screen time. Makoto Togashi puts in a kinetic shift as the disturbed Mitsuko Ozawa, managing to carry a role that is punctuated by risible scripted moments, such as a professor soliciting a male student on her own campus. The scene where Mitsuko sits down with guests for tea with her mother is very funny, darkly so, and manages to hit a high spot the rest of the film does not quite achieve. Megumi Kagurazaka, who Sono apparently married recently, also has some sharp comic moments in the early scenes of her buttoned-up marriage. Highly stylized, these moments nonetheless poke a stick at patriarchal attitudes still far too prevalent in 21st century Japan. Kanji Tsuda is impressive as the narcissistic husband. The one letdown is Ryuju Kobayashi, who in no way carries the malevolence his character is meant to convey. The wardrobe department clearly would like him to reference 'A Clockwork Orange', but he looks like an interloper from a boy band who stole a big boy's clothes.
'Cold Fish' shows Sono has talent and for the sake of Japanese cinema I'd love to see him stretch himself and break out from the niche genre - somewhere between Pink and Torture Porn - where he has set up camp. A more disciplined script, tighter running time, and more mature engagement with story might make that happen.
What's striking about the movie is the murder at the opening scene. A
woman's body was found that was cut in half, and decapitated. The
missing parts were arranged with parts from a mannequin. Then the story
shifts to the life of Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka) who's a new house wife
of a novel writer. Her husband is a perfectionist, and demands her to
be so as well. But when she finds a part time job at the super market,
things starts to change in her life.
Story is an adaptation of murder of Yasuko Watanabe (description in Wikipedia) by director, and screen writer Shion Sono that occurred in 1997.
The movie to me had two phases. First half was about Izumi, and the way she gets duped into the shady side of society. The second part is the horrible truth about Mitsuko (Makoto Togashi), and the truth about who's body it was that was found at the beginning of the movie.
The first part of the movie was beautiful, but the second part of the movie was gruesome. First part was well made, but I couldn't get into the second part. Mitsuko's character lacked authenticity, and her social background improbable.
So otherwise it was a fine movie, but there was no story towards the end (Mitsuko's life seemed forced, just to justify the plot). I wish the quality was consistent throughout the entire movie.
Sion Sono, the tantalising director of the unforgettable Love Exposure
(2009) and the chilling Cold Fish (2010) brings another dramatic tale
to life in his 2011 debut, Guilty of Romance.
A drama thriller loosely based on the real-life murder of Yasuko Watanabe, a prostitute working the late night streets of Tokyo's Shibuya district in 1997, Sono's take on the events are far from a half-hearted attempt.
Of course, having seen most of Sono's work, the graphic content portrayed in Guilty of Romance may deem shocking to some who, either aren't familiar with Sono's work or Japanese cinema in particular; but to me, I was the least surprised...
The rest of this review is at my Blog; Nihongo-Mania!
Please check it out! IMDb doesn't allow links so, just type in "Nihongo-Mania Japanese cinema reviews blogspot" on Google
Thank you very much! ٩(●ᴗ●)۶
Do you know that meme, saying "Dafuq did I just watch?!" well that's me
right now. As a devout Horror fan, I've long learnt not to trust IMDb
when it comes to genre tags. And yet, I found myself surprised by
Guilty of Romance. Has the Horror genre really evolved into this mess?
Is this what they call Horror in 2012?
Given that I'm not Japanese and have never lived in Japan, I could only hope that I missed the entire message of this film, and that's only if I give it enough credit to assume it had one. What I didn't miss was a 100+ minutes Asian erotic film meant to appeal to the audience's libido rather than their brains or hearts. The amount of nudity and sex scenes bordered on shameful, and that's coming from a guy. If you're gonna shoot an erotic film - do it, by all means! Just don't make it appear as more than that.
Yes, there was a story hidden there. Yes, the main actress Megumi Kagurazaka is gorgeous and sexy and has very lovely breast, as the audience is constantly and repeatedly reminded. The attempt to add a crime story, a murder, was at best unsuccessful. The way the story evolved was predictable and not interesting. Sorry to sound harsh, but I was expecting Horror/Drama, not a self indulging peep at sexual fetishes (they offer it all here! a raped woman enjoying the act, people strangling each other, and to top it off towards the end - a woman peeing!)
Bizarre erotica with an attempt at a story with a meaning. Nothing more. Wanna watch it? Go ahead, just lower your expectations in advance. I have no clue how this movie rated above 4.
In Portugal there are few opportunities to watch oriental movies and whenever I get the chance I try to watch them. It's such a different culture that I truly get fascinated by its movies. Currently I am watching a film festival in Porto, Fantasporto, that regularly features this kind of films and not all of them are fantasy films. Anyway, I watched this one last night and I must say I was a bit taken aback by it. I can understand the dullness of the housewife and her desire for something different, but I just can't understand the craziness of the college professor and its aim. Was she just crazy or did she had another interest in bringing the housewife to a life of prostitution? Totally weird or was just that a case of cultural differences?
After really enjoying Cold Fish at this years Melbourne International
Film Festival, I went ahead and got a ticket to a screening of Guilty
The only thing that really held my interest (and stopped me from walking out of the cinema) was the gorgeous Megumi Kagurazaka. Outside of this, I found GOR to be underwritten and pretentious.
Didn't care about any of the characters and the stories of three Japanese women quickly became laboured. Overly long scenes, characters shouting at each other, ridiculous literary quotes, a half baked attempt to add a crime caper twist, some kind of messages about modern feminism in Japan? Everything becomes muddled and there is simply no emotion here. Granted I am an Anglo Aussie so I can only assume I am missing much by not being Japanese and understanding their culture.
As a film, Cold Fish was in another league compared to this sorry, overblown mess.
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