L'amant (2004) Poster

(2004)

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9/10
Fall in love
generic_elias7 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this movie at the Seattle International Film Festival. A number of people left in the middle obviously disgusted. Luckily, I wasn't terribly bothered by it; at least they stood up and left at around the same time.

What was there to be offended by? The movie is, roughly summarized, about a 17-year old teenager, Chikako, who signs her body away for one year, to three men to use.

Certainly, there is a lot of uneasiness around teenager (14+) sex with older men in the U.S. But it is by no means pedophilia; by law in this country it is indeed illegal, as it commonly considered exploitation of a minor. In this movie, it is not really portrayed that way, because Chikako "willingly" signed her 17th year away to these men.

I put "willingly" in quotes, because the movie doesn't explain the background of why she's engaging in the contract. I'm assuming she didn't need the money for any particular purpose.

So what is her motivation? She doesn't appear connected to anyone, like her mother or to people at school. The father is not present in the movie. The back story is not clear, but I can imagine looking at the character on screen she was likely approached by somebody, and like many nihilistic and apathetic teenage girls, acquiesced.

Sexually, Chikako ("Hanako") seems game. Emotionally, she is entirely shut down. She doesn't care about her own name, or the names of the men who own her.

In some respects, watching a young, beautiful women be sexually exploited is arousing. Men intrinsically (biologically) desire such women. The men aren't cruel, but they treat her like their favorite toy. Chikako willfully submits with disinterest. In one part of the movie, they say she's like the "radio controlled airplane" and "10-speed bicycle" they never got as children.

What the film attempts to do is represent the audience as one of the men: At the beginning of the movie, the audience is unattached to the characters, but in a purely visual way gets to enjoy the sex as the men do. Later, as the characters develop, attachments and empathy develop. Both the audience and characters on screen, for lack of a better expression "fall in love." People--a large number, no doubt--who disagree with the premise of the movie will likely rate the movie rather low and leave in the middle. (These people likely hate pornography and erotic movies in general.) I really enjoyed the movie myself. I rated the movie highly, because I think it was a very original idea and very eloquent storytelling.
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1/10
Old pervs turn their sexual fantasies into cinema, and try to make us buy it
artblose11 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't see Vibrator, the much gushed about previous film by director Ryuichi Hiroki, but he came in person as a guest of the festival and Travis Crawford, the curator of Asian Cinema for the Philly Fest.

First stipulating that I am no red-state moralist (nor a father), I found this film to be, at best, an old man's sex fantasy clumsily turned into a script and movie. We have a 17 year-old girl (the age of consent in Japan, or do young women wear their plaid skirts into their 30's for alluring effect?) "sell" herself as a sex slave to three 30+ brothers who should really think of getting a life. Of course, they are dutifully executing Dad's wishes, who spies aforementioned nymphet from his death-bed hospital window, and wishes he could, well, relate to her in language the translators probably misunderstood. Otherwise, Dad was a big IL' perv, too. Some mention is made of dad being a filmmaker, and dusty back rooms contain canisters and other detritus from a career in pre-digital film, but whether this guy was Kurosawa or Flint is open to speculation (I'll bank on the latter).

Drama (or something approaching it) ensues, with each brother doing something sick/life affirming (take your pick) to our heroine at various points. Heroine seems to have only one encounter with mother-figure, and soon gets Stockholm syndrome (really loves her creepy old rapist father figures). Much ordered pantie removal is performed (along with "womb touching" presumably the Japanese method of coat-hanger abortion, but I digress…). Much like the Story of O, you must be humiliated to get inner strength, or failing that, use up all that film stock you bought.

Big event is our heroine getting raped (by a stranger in a movie theater bathroom, not the "good rape" she experiences at home with her guardians). The stranger doesn't use protection, so we now have a pregnancy issue to beat around.

Our heroine eventually discovers sketch books done by the father, which actually show her clothed, but still sporting red pouting lips and those ubiquitous knee-socks. See, he really was a sensitive guy, in a Larry Flint/Bob Guccione kinda way.

As was explained after in the Q & A, us dumb Americans missed the larger symbolic themes in the picture. And if we would have been hip enough to read the graphic novel that it was based on, we would have had a one-handed appreciation for the genre that inspired the movie. The other hand, of course, was busy…

In the end, we get a teary parting of ways, as the girl realizes it is her birthday, and she is no longer under contract to Larry, Daryl and Daryl. But she'll miss them, because they made her a woman (feel free to hurl at any point).

In summation, a piece of crap, an old man's male fantasy marginally dressed-up as art film.

Just yesterday I saw a film of teenage exploitation/abuse done right, Greg Akari's magnificent "Mysterious Skin". Now there was a statement, and a movie to boot.

Avoid this one at all costs, and question any programmer who thinks this is material for a festival as well-regarded as Philadelphia's. Mr. Crawford should be ashamed.
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8/10
Saw this at the Vancouver Film Festival! Maybe spoilers!
moviefiend697 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this in Sept. 2004 at the film festival in Vancouver Canada. I thought I would write a positive review of this movie as there are only 3 and 2 people hated it. I actually liked the movie a lot when I saw it. I don't remember too much of it now as it was years ago. I don't know how I would come across a copy today. I would definitely like to re-watch it. There was a Q and A with the director afterwards and I asked a question about the bird or insect in the cage. What was that thing anyway? I met the director of the film afterwards and shook his hands and told him it was a good movie! The director said the old man dying was a seasoned film director and the 3 men were supposed to be his crew. Cineamatographer/Editor/Writer I believe. Yes, this is a male fantasy for sure, but I thought it was handled well.
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1/10
This has to be the most stupid movie ever !
BizarreLoveTriangle23 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I've just read "Arthur Blose"'s comment on this film and it's really hard to add anything to it since it's so crystalline but still, I have to say, too, how stupid this movie is since nobody seems to believe him. Anyways, this 17 year old girl sells herself to three guys for a year so that they can fulfill their fantasies. You'll expect that she'll realize how disgusting it is or how fulfilling it is to be in control or that she's a victim. Since it's a hard subject you're expecting some epiphany, something big, right ? And that's the problem, unless you're looking for glimpses of panties and mimics of sex/passion, there is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing in this movie ! The acting is awful, or tired at best, the photography and decoration is cheap-80's, and the result feels like being at a drama rehearsal - backstage. In the end, the girl thanks her abusers for turning her into a woman. At that point, you're supposed to feel sick but this flick is so laughable that you're just glad it's over and you can go back to reality - something that this movie fails to connect with in every possible way.
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