Love & Pop (1998)
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(SPOILERS) Continuing with the story the main character Hiromi sees a ring she wants to buy, and goes out alone doing compensated dating for it, something they never did, they never dated alone. She ends up on a date with Captain EO (Tadanobu Asano) that will teach her a valuable lesson about life and about what she does. And right here is the value of the film, a boring tale about innocent school girls makes lots of sense because of a few minutes of film. The girls are not that innocent, everything trought the movie seems so normal in their perspective, and they seem so innocent that we are blinded. And in the end it makes sense. Captain EO shows an aggressive face suddenly but spares Hiromi saying "You're here naked, and you are killing someone half dead with grief over it." Meaning she has value, and someone gives her value, but she is not seeing it or experiencing, she's not thinking about what she is looking for. She is being selfish and blind, and whoever gives her value will be hurt for what she does. I think the idea speaks for itself.
Hideaki Anno is a great director, and i am looking forward to see more movies directed by him. I gave this 9 out of 10.
The film is shot in a lot of unorthodox techniques that can be confusing for a western audience, but you need to remember Hideaki Anno is the creator of such mind-blowing works as Neon Genesis Evangelion, and in the same same vein, we can contemplate how deep can a teenager go in her despair to be something she is not supposed to be. Requiem for a Dream is the nearest thing you'll ever see to "Love & Pop".
Watch it. Just watch it.
OK, if that didn't scare you off, then please continue reading.
It's a heavy, disturbing subject right off the bat. That plus the unconventional camera-work rings of "pretentious art house film". But somehow Hideaki Anno pulls it off. I suspect that it's because this is a sort of *tongue-in-cheek* pretentious art house film. Unlike certain snotty Cannes Film Festival contenders who seem to take themselves too seriously, Anno deliberately goes way over the top, as if to say, "Yes, I am a very strange man who likes to put cameras in microwave ovens." As a result, the mood of this film is a cross between CLOCKWORK ORANGE and AIRPLANE 2. Take it or leave it.
You might be wondering why I rated it only 6/10 despite the fact that I seem to be praising it. You see, I've rated it on my special Hideaki-Annometer which grades on a much tougher scale. True, it's a worthwhile film. But relative to some of his other work, this comes across as a bit experimental and fractured.
His later work SHIKI-JITSU is the perfection of what we see here. You'll even notice many recurring trademarks such as train tracks, red lighting and "countdown" intertitles. In the two years following LOVE & POP, Hideaki Anno mastered the style he dabbled in here.
But oh wait I forgot about the music. (I may have to bump my rating up to a 7.) As with SHIKI-JITSU, he matches the perfect doleful piano pieces with poetic voice-over narration. In particular, I recognized a few Chopin sonatas, Debussy's "Claire de lune" and 1 or 2 other haunting melodies. Despite the vulgarity of the subject matter, these classical/romantic pieces provide a very interesting counterbalance. And I believe that is the whole theme of the film: the precarious balance between perversion and innocence.
It's certainly a memorable film. But it requires some patience. Be sure to stick around for the 2nd half when things get REALLY weird.
To start, it is clear that we are not watching a film from a conventional director. Numerous hand-held cameras are used in close proximity to the cast, covering every conceivable angle, resulting in an endless stream of edits, that leave the viewer disorientated as to who and what they are seeing. "Love & Pop" is a film that many could quickly turn off within the opening couple of minutes; plot and characters difficult to initially establish. But, for those of us that realise that some of the quick edits include under the table shots of girls in short skirts, the more of the film that is watched, the more the collection of edits grows into an innovative film mirroring the youth culture it captures.
Hiromi, Nao, Chisa and Chieko are four (count them) friends who spend their days around the concrete playground of Shibuya, Tokyo. Though with the onslaught of edits, it's a little difficult to really establish who is who and any nuance of character. But what becomes clear is that these are not girls up to innocent activities; but are partaking in enjo kosai: high school girls performing various acts in exchange for rectangular pieces of paper with dead people's faces and numbers printed on them.
Acquiring a phone with which they can leave flirtatious messages, the girls wonder the streets over a twenty-four hour period, meeting various men along the way. Shopping for bikinis for a planned trip to the beach, the story develops when Hiromi spies an expensive ring in a department store. Needing money, the girls set about earning enough to buy it.
It's at this point when focus switches more to Hiromi, and you feel the editing and camera movements calm down a little (whether they actually do or not). Meeting two men in separate encounters, she is forced to realise that quick money earned may get her the things she wants, but will leave her feeling less-than-positive about herself.
After meeting with a shut-in to accompany him on a trip to the video store (which results in a session of unwanted pocket billiards), she then converses with the mysterious "Captain X" on the phone the group have been using. Being that this is a film made within two years of the new millennium, Tadanobu Asano takes up this role, taking her to a love hotel, only to angrily berate her for stripping naked in front of a man she has just met in exchange for money.
Slowing the pace down towards the film's conclusions, Hiromi meets with the phone's owner who provides words of advice for her, which leave her feeling she is better off at home with her family, rather than wondering the streets in seedy encounters. The ring left un- purchased, despite raising the funds, Hiromi is more assured is herself than the lost girl of the film's beginning.
The film's progress adequately reflects Hiromi, starting as a messy collection of shots, Hiromi unsure of what she really wants in life, distracted by the endless flashing lights of the various media that surround the modern world. But gradually, these become more focused, resulting in two key scenes which leave an impact on her, ending in a more settled and calm manner. In this sense, Anno's live action debut is accomplished filmmaking, putting the audience through a day in Hiromi's head.
Looking at the lives of teenage girls and youth searching for direction, this is very much in keeping with much of Anno's anime work, though more importantly tackles the phenomenon of enjo kosai and how quickly and easily teenage girls find themselves in dangerous situations in the simple pursuit of a few quid. Based on Ryu Murakami's book "Topaz II", Anno neither glorifies nor vilifies the girls - or indeed their male clients - showing it as an almost normal part of daily life. And this is perhaps where the problem lies.
Perhaps fittingly for a film of such high editing, the end credits accompany a long take of the four girls walking through the sewage ways of Shibuya in unison to close an unconventional approach to cinema, but one that definitely has its merits. Followed by "Ritual" a couple of years later, it is perhaps a shame that Anno has stuck to working mainly in anime - the recent "Shin Godzilla" aside - though one's lost will always be the other's gain.
The film follows four Japanese high school girls who engage in enjo kosai, or compensated dating. This is a practice in Japan where older businessmen pay teenage girls more commonly to simply spend time with them, or rarely for prostitution. The movie is also a coming-of-age story. The main character, Hiromi, does not have the direction in life that her friends already have. Hiromi's friends were going to buy Hiromi a ring, but Hiromi refuses to take all the money because she does not want her friends to be jealous. Hiromi goes on dates by herself to get money for the ring. Soon, she gets in over her head. Hiromi falls too far into the world of enjo-kosai as she tries to hold onto a "friends forever" vision of the past.
I gave it 9 out of 10 only because of Hideaki's sheer creativity in this film, storytelling, choosing camera, and camera shots (i find it so refreshing), and few other cool stuff...
If you like Art & Creativity, you'll sure like Love & Pop.
Needless to say, a must-watch for fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion and His and Her Circumstances, and although it may be a bit too weird for those not familiar with Hideaki Anno's style, or experimental films in general, I think it's still worth a shot.
Four girls are friends at school. Each has reason to go on Enjo Kosai. Hiromi is new to all this, but she first starts with going to karaoke house with middle aged man with her friends. Gradually, she starts to do it on her own. Her parents of course knows nothing about this. Hiromi has a goal of making enough money to buy an expensive ring she saw. She thinks its not so difficult, and gets dating appointments over phone. But reality of life is about to give her a lesson.
This type of activity is very easy in Japan where there are many karaoke booth, and so called love hotels. It's easy to get lost in the crowd and blend in as not to be conspicuous. All the girls take full advantage of the society they live in. But such activities are not without risk, and that seems to be the point if there's any about this movie.
Movies about prostitution has been made before and this is another modern take on it. The movie provides inside look of Japanese society, and is an interesting story to watch.