A grisly murder occurs in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo - a love hotel district - a woman was found dead in a derelict apartment. Kazuko (Miki Mizuno) is a police officer called to ...
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A grisly murder occurs in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo - a love hotel district - a woman was found dead in a derelict apartment. Kazuko (Miki Mizuno) is a police officer called to investigate on this case, she will discover the story of two women who, despite appearing respectable on the outside have all manner of darkness hidden away.Written by
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. However, I'm not sure why these films are considered to be linked together in any way, and 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, 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 basically 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'-in-law'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!
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