Love & Loathing & Lulu & AyanoSeptember 9, 2010
Namae no nai onnatachi (Japan, 2010)
A semi-fictional look behind the scenes of Japanese Adult Video (AV) industry, helmed by Hisayasu Sato, the famed director of Lolita Vibrator Torture (1987) and other underground pink classics. The outcome is surprisingly restrained next to the director’s past films, but not a failure in by any means. Sadistic violence, and somewhat surprisingly the more shocking sex, are both missing, although mainstream classification would be stretching it a bit.
Wasting no time for introductions, Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano opens with the recruitment of its main character, a soon to be AV star. Well dressed and smooth talking scouts are no rare sight in the streets of Tokyo. Every year approximately 10 000 Japanese women join an official AV-agency, with a multiple number of amateur and accidental stars (girls blissfully unaware of their “starring role”) in the industry. The amount of new production is around 20 000 per year. Lulu & Ayano’s fictive story has been crafted from the interviews of people working in the AV industry.
The film’s protagonist is the shy and naïve but curious Junko, aka Lulu, who finds a new identity as a blue wigged, Sailor Moon uniform wearing daydream for an anime otaku. It’s a part time life taking place in weekends only, with Junko continuing her full time job as a secretary for a normal Japanese company. The other protagonist referred by the title, Ayano, a former gang girl, is more knowledgeable of the harsh reality of the AV world. A somewhat cliché tough girl character, her main role is to comment the industry in somewhat pretentious and semi-narrator style.
Preaching is light, nevertheless. Brief first shock aside, Lulu fully enjoys her new life as a successful adult entertainer. A miserable victim of the dark world she is not. The pains and risks related to the industry are there, but primarily Lulu & Ayano is a film of people working in the industry, rather than of the industry itself. The cute leading actress (Norie Yasui) in her colorful costumes is certainly easy on the eye, which adds an interesting yet no doubt intentional contradiction: some of the methods used to add to the film’s entertainment value are also the ones discussed in the film’s industry analytical screenplay.
Sentimentalism is kept out, unlike in the silly 2001 film Platonic Sex, which was based on the autobiography by Ai Iijima. Despite the lack of shock value, and perhaps partly due to the unknown cast, Sato was given the freedom to shoot the film in a more natural and fitting way. The bare skin on display is not gratuitous but appropriate for the context, and optical censorship that has plagued Japanese cinema in the past decades has been overcome. Still, Sato doesn’t get away entirely clean, and especially Lulu’s mother (Makiko Watanabe of Love Exposure, 2008) is a dull and typical bad mother character – the kind of woman whose daughter you’d expect to become an AV star with no sense of reality.
Lulu & Ayano’s digital HD cinematography looks solid – especially images of Tokyo’s rain water canals are breathtaking. Unlike many other recent Japanese films, the digital look does not stand out very clearly, although it does add some slight and welcome rawness to the visuals. Musical department is restrained until the ending explosion: Virgin Blues is a perfect closing song.
The original title hidden behind the terribly long international name Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano is Namae no nai onnatachi, which translates as Nameless Women. 95 % of the women working in the AV-business are kikaku actresses –uncredited and typically underpaid supporting players. Lulu & Ayano, nevertheless, follows taintai actresses – girls who have broke through to fame and receive idol-like treatment. Sato’s somewhat amusing take on the latter is a psychotic fan who starts stalking Lulu in her everyday life.
A ground breaking film Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano is not. As a mix of lightweight message and pure entertainment, nicely falling somewhere between marginal and mainstream cinema, it nevertheless works very fluently. The film opened in Japan in September 2010 and will probably find its way to a handful of international film festivals.