Last year’s Cold Fish had plenty of elements of real events in it and 2011’s Guilty of Romance is no different. The print screened at Cannes is an extended 145-minute version, which Sono will shave down by a half hour for international release. Still, there is plenty of room for the film to ‘breathe’. Divided into five chapters, this is the trilogy to the direcotrs hate trilogy as he continues his pseudo-feminist musings on contemporary Japan. Many people will be offended, even more will be shocked, but is it a good film?
Guilty Of Romance focuses on a housewife, a married cop, and a highbrow professor by day, uninhibited prostitute by night, all of whom engage in a world of sexual pleasure. A world that of course, is morally wrong. This film sure tries to make a powerful statement, but the overload of sex and violence is just too blatant to be taken seriously. One day, she decides to follow her desires and accepts to be a naked model that fakes sex in front of the camera. Soon she meets a mentor and starts selling her body to strangers but at home, she is still the wife she is supposed to be? It is all a bit too creepy for me and the murder element just kicks it up a notch. Like I stated before, Cold Fish was a very haunting film but the amount of sexual profligacy does the opposite effect I am sure the director was trying to accomplish.
So let’s recap: women, sex and murder. What could go wrong, right? Well, Sono’s message within the film gets obscured in the final reels by insignificant literary references and drawn-out scenes of sex that I felt he just inputted to film up time. So, no wonder the film is getting a re-cut! This is a dramatic account of three women and their lives, seen through the looking glass of sex, words, madness, death and family. The first film in the trilogy, Love Exposure, won the Agnes B Award at the 9th Tokyo Filmex, awarded by the audiences vote. It was also shown at the 59th Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Caligari Film prize and Overseas Critic League Prize. Loop all those accomplishments together and I would have loved to have a better anchor to send this trilogy off on its merry way.
This is a very hard film to score. There are lots of plot elements that get overshadowed, such as a female detective who displays multiple facets of herself: detective chasing a murder case, a motherly side, as well as a lover. I would recommend waiting for the recut, as the shorter cut will surely deal with the resolution and streamlining of the story. It will cut the investigation storyline to focus on the relationship between Izumi and Mitsuko. Unfortunately, I have to rate the version I saw, but this film shouldn’t deter any Sono fans by any means. Because there are VERY graphic sex scenes in it, the film will be very sensitive in America, so don’t count on a stateside release just yet. Previously, Sono’s The Room won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 1992, and he gained international notoriety for his 2001 picture Suicide Club. I’d really like for him to go back in the direction of those films instead of trying to push the sexual envelope to the limits.