TOKYO DECADENCE documents the sordid travails of an unhappy Japanese prostitute. A few moments of black comedy and some pointed jabs at contemporary Japanese society cannot redeem this plotless, graphically gruesome ordeal. Ai (Miho Nikaido), a young prostitute, visits a fortune teller who advises her to follow three rules to achieve happiness: 1) place...read more
TOKYO DECADENCE documents the sordid travails of an unhappy Japanese prostitute. A few moments of black comedy and some pointed jabs at contemporary Japanese society cannot redeem this plotless, graphically gruesome ordeal.
Ai (Miho Nikaido), a young prostitute, visits a fortune teller who advises her to follow three rules to achieve happiness: 1) place a phone book under the TV; 2) never go to an art museum in the West; and 3) buy a ring with a pink stone. Ai buys just such a ring before paying a visit to a
sadistic client, Mr Ishoika, who makes her bump and grind on a hotel window ledge for hours on end. Taking a break, the good-natured Ai reveals that she sometimes works with deaf children, but feels basically talentless. Ishoika then has Ai crawl on the floor with her feet in cuffs while he has
sex with his girlfriend.
Ai leaves and realizes she's lost the ring. Later, she gets another call at the same hotel. She returns to Ishoika's room, but finds him engaged in more kinky sex while some thugs practice golf putting on the carpet. Ai runs from the room and meets a crack-smoking client who passes out after
demanding to be choked. When she goes back to Ishoika's room, a bruised woman gives her the ring.
At home Ai becomes despondent when she turns on the TV and sees her former lover, a famous artist. When she goes on another "date"--with a wealthy man who projects a slide of Mt. Fuji on a wall and then tries to act out a historical rape--she refuses him. Admonished for turning down a client, Ai
is sent to join a sado-masochistic menage a trois with Saki (Sayako Amano), a dominatrix, and a nameless customer who's into whips, chains, and urination. Ai goes home with Saki, a rich junkie, and discusses her confused feelings about the artist. "Clarify where you stand," says Saki, giving Ai a
pill "for courage." Ai goes in search of the artist, takes the pill and starts hallucinating. After stumbling around a Toyko suburb for hours, she is picked up by the police for trying to break into a house. Luckily, a woman she met earlier in the day prevents her from being arrested. The next
day, Ai is back in her callgirl outfit.
Written and directed by Ryu Murakami, TOKYO DECADENCE is as directionless as its sad, passive protagonist. From Ai's visit to the fortune teller, to thugs practicing their golf, to Saki's analyisis of Japan's sexual psyche ("Wealth without pride ... drives men to maschoism,") a quirky humor
occasionally undercuts the proceedings. But Murakami's movie isn't a comedy, even though the storyline is slight enough to be laughable. The sex scenes, often torturous affairs for Ai, are graphic excercises in domination and humiliation, and are certainly not for the squeamish. Ai herself is
nothing more than a vaguely drawn collection of demure smiles and uneasy glances. She seems likable and, pitted against her abusive clients, she has our sympathies. Unfortunately, Murakami tells us next to nothing about her. He's too busy concentrating on endless, monotonous sexual scenarios.
(Explicit sex, violence.)
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