Directed by Hisayasu Sato
Written by Naoko Nishida based on the book by Atsuhiko Nakamura
Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano is perhaps the most heartfelt pornography film you will see this year. Blending the tragic personal lives of two young women, Lulu & Ayano, who respectively turn to porn to feel wanted and to survive. The film plays on comic notes but is largely focused on the overlying drama and horror of the Japanese porn industry, which exploits and abuses young women. It presents the industry as selling out it’s stars to the highest bidder at the expense of their personal volition. The women in particular, dreading the hyper-violent “rape scene”, which is as dirty and violent as it sounds.
The act of selling sex is not the issue of the hand (if it were, I’d take some objection to the film, which is still pornography), but the cruelty and oppression of the industry. The film suggests, at the very least, that the taboo nature of pornographers allows the continued abuse of the women in the field. Much like Street of Shame, Mizoguchi’s classic indictment of anti-prostitution laws, Hisayasu Sato uses genre in order to shed light on social issues. Both films present workers in the sex industry as fully realized human beings with a wide range of reasons and feelings towards the industry they work in. The actual success is arguable, as with Mizoguchi’s uncomfortable adoration of drunken atmosphere of Japan’s red-light district, there is not enough meta energy in the actual depiction of the soft core scenes and it feels like the film wants to eat it’s cake and have it too.
Lulu & Loathing stylistically though is closest in spirit to the iconic pink film, Koji Wakamatsu’s Go, Go Second Time Virgin. It may not be as visually daring, but certainly employs a similar emotional wave-length. Both attempt to tackle issues of female sexuality with a certain amount of grace and buckets of blood. Though not a particularly supporter of Wakamatsu’s films, it transcends Hisayasu’s effort if only because of it’s swift run-time, which streamlines all the film’s emotional and social impact. Hisayasu’s effort may have a more compelling argument, but it becomes lost in many redundant sequences and the film loses focus.
Though I enjoy the burgeoning friendship between the two female leads and was able to derive immense pleasure from the depiction of Otaku culture, my own personal bias intervenes. Being a simple girl with simple desires, I like my soft-core pornography to be a bit more misogynistic and with a few more musical sequences. My obsession with Russ Meyer’s pulpiness has unfortunately hindered my ability to enjoy soft-core films that delve too deeply into art-house or horror sensibilities. Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano may not be the film for me, but this is hardly a slight on the film itself. Fans of Japanese Pink cinema, or those with an interesting in the goings on of the Japanese porn industry will not regret this unique cinematic experience.