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Don't laugh at someone else's sex? But it's laughable to call it sex at all

Film review: "人のセックスを笑うな" (2007)
Director: Nami Iguchi
Cast: Hiromi Nagasaku, Kenichi Matsuyama

I guess I should explain why I picked this film to watch one night. It's because the title, "人のセックスを笑うな" (don't laugh at someone else's sex) caught my attention. Obviously I was intrigued by the provocative challenge that dares us to trivialise other people's predicaments where they are most vulnerable. I'm artistically-minded like that.

Just quickly to give you an idea what this film is about; basically, a boy of 19 (played by Kenichi Matsuyama) meets a mysterious (and apparently irresistibly attractive) maturer woman (played superbly by Hiromi Nagasaku), and predictably falls in love with her, who turns out to be a new lecturer at his college. What is not so predictable is that the innocently coquettish femme fatal turns out to be very much maturer indeed by some twenty years, and to be very much married also, happily living with a very sweet man. Heartache ensues, naturally.

Well, the film didn't quite deliver. It was all very stylish, all very cute, and actually I like it as a piece of work. But as a story, I didn't like it one jot for two reasons.

First, I didn't find the heroine a sympathetic character. The mysterious, free-spirited creature is basically just an overgrown child who has no respect for others or has no inkling that they may have such things as feelings. So she happily goes on taking advantage of everyone else, on assumption that the entire universe orbits around her existence. As you can see, I didn't quite like her.

Second, while I wholeheartedly agree with the message, "don't judge other people's affairs," (and that's what got me interested in the first place, I have to remind you), there's hardly any sex in the film. I'm not saying that I wanted to see Kenichi Matsuyama in action (though that would've made it more interesting, undoubtedly).

What I mean here is that there's no sensuality, no raw desire portrayed in the film. The most we get is Nagasaku kissing (more pecking, really) Matsuyama noisily and persistently, which we are supposed to interpret as liberated sexuality of a free-spirited older woman. No saliva, just cute little noises. I found that persistent pecking rather annoying, more than anything else. It's like talking about the "rampant sensuality" of biting into those pretty little pastel-coloured macaroons.

So there is no shock value that might be expected from the provocative title. The film is too busy being stylish, and it does not engage in the nitty-gritty of falling in love - the obsession, the exhilaration, and the hurt.

There is a very symbolic scene towards the end, where Matsuyama flicks the lighter that Nagasaku gave him in the early days (it's red and heart-shaped by the way, so you won't miss the symbolism), and a feeble light flickers on though he thought it was out of gas. Then a line comes up across the screen, something like "会えないからって終わるわけじゃないだろ" which roughly goes, "it doesn't die out just because you can't see her, does it."

The feeble flicker is very symbolic, I thought. The film's premise is jolting the world with the all-consuming flame of desire beneath the apparent ludicrousness that is the banal reality of romance. But there is no flame, just a flicker -  from a heart-shaped lighter that you thought was out of gas. Don't laugh at sex? There is no sex to laugh at. No nudity, no saliva, no sweat, no raw emotion - just girls jumping up and down on sofa/bed in tantrums. Quite a well-chosen gesture for the selfish, immature, skin-deep "want" of the characters I thought, as in kids screaming "Want" in front of toy shops.

So the film doesn't achieve what it sets out to do. Instead of shocking us into realising that every romance is real, no matter how lame it appears to be, it achieves the exact opposite in convincing us that yeah, something that can be so neatly contained in a stylish flick about romance IS shallow and superficial. Because it doesn't disgust you, embarrass you, weary you and captivate you by realities of naked human desire. It has no claw. It's only a kitten scratching at the surface, meowing "I can do you real harm." No, kitten, you are quite harmless. Very cute though.

About Nagasaku's oddly healthy huge cotton pants - why does she wear them over tights? Does everyone actually wear underwear over tights?


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