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  Guilty of Romance Lost My Heart In TokyoBuy this film here.
Year: 2011
Director: Sion Sono
Stars: Miki Mizuno, Makoto Togashi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Kazuya Kojima, Satoshi Nikaido, Ryûju Kobayashi, Shingo Gotsuji, Motoki Fukami, Chika Uchida, Marie Machida, Ryô Iwamatsu, Hisako Ôkata, Kanji Tsuda, Cynthia Cheston, Mae Ohtsuka, Suwaru Ryû, Keisuke Urasaka
Genre: Horror, Drama, Sex
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The police have been called to this part of the city which houses the so-called Love Hotels, places where couples can go to have sex, though more often than not those couples are prostitutes and their clients. It's not the most salubrious of districts, but even the cops are shocked by what they find, a mannequin that has had parts of its body replaced by actual human body parts - and there's another dummy inside which has the lower half of the deceased attached to it. They've never seen anything like it, and set about examining the corpse, but to understand what happened to the murder victim we have to go back to the story of Izumi Kikuchi (Megumi Kagurazaka), an apparently normal housewife...

Guilty of Romance, or Koi no tsumi if you were Japanese, was another of director and writer Sion Sono's films which he based on a real life incident then spun off into his own directions, which were on the more extreme side of Japanese cinema. Naturally, this made him popular among cult movie enthusiasts abroad who had a yen for Eastern movies, though for some they felt let down by this effort, as while it was outrageous in places there was still the mood of an in-depth character study rather than a weirdo movie of the sort he was more associated with. But it was good he was able to extend his range, especially when you were as prolific as he is, making his perceived rival Takashi Miike look anxiously over his shoulder.

That said, Sion was likely more arthouse friendly for his tackling of big themes, and in this case it was no less than the dark elements of human sexuality, and how such primal drives can dominate a life if left unchecked. No bad thing, those who had not seen this might have thought, but we were in no doubt after watching Izumi's descent into a private hell that you really needed a sense of perspective and proportion when dealing with the vagaries of exactly what gets you going in that department. She begins the tale a doting housewife to a writer, Yukio (Kanji Tsuda), who heads off every morning to his office for work, leaving her rather lonely and increasingly pondering her lot in life; the marriage is happy enough, but it's a little... boring.

She hits on the notion of getting a job and is soon failing to sell sausages in a supermarket, so meek is she, yet as chance would have it a woman approaches her and informs Izumi she is wasting her time there and could be better employed as a model. Intrigued, she goes along and the operation seems to be that of a gravure idol, which surely by no coincidence is how Megumi started her career in showbiz, that being the equivalent of a swimsuit model in the West - no nudity, though, which was a rule the actress surely broke in this, her husband's oeuvre. That was down to the modelling shoot gradually turning more explicit, and soon she is close to raped by a tall male model on camera, though in a very troublesome development she actually finds the experience quite exciting.

The point being, as far as you can work out, once a boring life gets a taste of excitement there's no going back, they need to have more, though Izumi by no means succumbs immediately, and it's an encounter with college lecturer turned prostitute Mitsuko Ozawa (Makoto Togashi) that offers her insight into a truly extreme world that doesn't appear to be one of complete degradation when the women are calling the shots, but on closer examination, well, it is really. All the way through this microscopic scrutiny of its lead character and how she reacts to this underworld Sion conjured up a variety of strange scenes designed to disturb, from Izumi forced to call her husband by a pimp who is practically raping her to say she won't be home tonight (whether she enjoys that too is left uncomfortably ambiguous) to a cosy dinner scene with Mitsuko's mother who tells her while politely smiling that in no uncertain terms she is utter filth and deserves to die, and soon. So who is the body? You'll have to watch and find out, in a film serving as a downbeat cautionary tract, far from uplifting, if compelling.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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