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Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami

Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Topāzu/Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami

    Tokyo Decadence (Topāzu) is a 1991 Japanese film. The film was directed by Ryu Murakami with music by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The film stars Nikaido Miho and is known by two other titles, Topaz and Sex Dreams of Topaz. It has been banned in Australia and South Korea.

    A timid Japanese college girl, Ai (, lit. "love"), tries to make ends meet as a light SM/bondage girl for hire within a world of lavishly wealthy Tokyo penthouses.

    The bulk of the film is comprised of four sex sequences, the first and last involving dildos and mirrors, with the S/M relationship being inverted, the middle two asphyxiation with, again, a reversal of roles. The actual story revolves around Ai's unrequited love for a married gallery artist. At the beginning of the movie Ai visits a fortune-teller who advises her to buy a topaz, wear it around her neck, and avoid a gallery in the east. Ai later loses the stone, later finds it again, later goes to the artist's house, has the police called on her, has the police called off by one of the artist's neighbors whose affair with (but not love for) him has ended.

    The general themes of the film are the sterility and coldness of life, and the inability to make a human connection in the modern world.

    At least two versions of the film exist, with the shorter one edited more for pacing than for censorship. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Decadence [Dec 2004]

    Three out of four sex sequences heavily feature drugs.

    Four "sex sequences":

    • first sex sequence: Ai strapped in a reclining chair, blindfolded and gagged. Unknown drug injected into thigh of Ai
    • second sex sequence: man dips cigarette in cocaine before lighting it, cocaine is cut on Xavier Cugat CD case. Woman asks: "Does he have a hard-on?, I suppose not , since he's been doing cocaine." Image of Ai on the standing in front of the window is used for DVD case cover.
    • third sex sequence: Mount Fuji, self proclaimed necrophiliac, Ai walks out
    • fourth sex sequence: Ai helps a rich dominatrix in dominating a man. Afterwards Ai does lots of drugs with dominatrix at the latter's house.

    Released as a piece of exotic arty porn, Tokyo Decadence became quite a hit at festivals and art houses around the world. There's something about artistically justified porn which always seems to draw in the punters. The threshold of shame is lowered considerably once a film containing explicitly sexual scenes is qualified as art.

    In the case of Tokyo Decadence, the English title was half the publicity. For those wishing to see scenes of decadence in Tokyo, the film certainly delivers. However, the intention of the film is entirely different. It might show explicit sexuality, but this is far from a portrait of the decadence of the Japanese. Rather, it's a portrait of loneliness and the more metaphoric original Japanese title is in fact a much more appropriate one.

    Young Ai ("love" - a bitterly ironic choice of name) makes a living as a call girl specialising in SM. A thoroughly lonely soul, she fulfills the wishes of her clients and lets herself be degraded and hurt, undergoing everything with a look of sadness on her face and a distant thought on her mind. She yearns for happiness as she wanders through cold, impersonal city streets. Her desperation is such that when a fortune teller says that she will find happiness if she places a telephone directory under her television and buys a ring of natural stone, she complies. The topaze ring she buys at great expense becomes symbolic for her fruitless search for happiness.

    Director Murakami stays admirably true to his own intentions. The loneliness of his lead character is mirrored in many elements of the production. Lit in a harsh manner that gives everything an unearthly paleness, the world Ai inhabits comes across as empty, cold and depressing. Aside from the people she interacts with, few others are seen, and those she meets are almost without exception out to satisfy their own selfish desires.

    As a result, Tokyo Decadence can hardly be called erotic. Exotic maybe (or at least, the wishes of Ai's clients certainly are), but above all, this film presents us with a world that's cold and devoid of humanity, compassion and feeling. It's a selectively dramatic portrait perhaps (it simply refuses to let any kind of light shine into its darkness) and as such it's certainly no Taxi Driver, but thanks to Murakami's devotion to his own intentions, Tokyo Decadence surfaces as an effective study of one human being's loneliness. --Tom Mes, via http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/tokyodec.shtml, [May 2004]

Amazon.com review
The fourth feature film written and directed by the Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami (Coin Locker Babies) revels in S&M episodes that seem to owe less to the Japanese tradition of the "pink film" than to such Euro art-bondage movies as La Maītresse (France, 1976) and A Woman in Flames (West Germany, 1983). Visually, the sequences stop well short of hard core, and emotionally they are amorphous, too, even less unsettling than standard porno fare. What ultimately saps the movie's strength is its schematic approach to character. The loosely structured picture tags along after a timid young woman named Ai (Miho Nikaido), a recent college graduate who has found work in the big city as a hooker specializing in low-impact bondage. Ai seems less a character than a convenient object for Murakami's flip sense of high-tech alienation. (She claims to have learned only one thing in life: "That I have no talent of any kind.") The nonstick surfaces of her daily life, like her personality, are almost completely without distinguishing features; the only gestures she makes toward taking control are some superstitious rituals prescribed by a sidewalk fortuneteller. Ai herself is such a hazy presence that nothing that happens to her stays with us. --David Chute

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