Platonic Sex (HK - DVD R3)
A harrowing tale of abuse and abandonment as the seventeen year old Aoi finds herself forced into working as a prostitute to survi...
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Most movies have some kind of enjoyment factor. Guns or girls, drama or comedy, most films have something. Above everything else, most mainstream films are, let’s say, pleasant. Even the horrors are not unpleasant, just gory—often made more watchable because they are overtly fictional. Then there’s the rub, because the more realistic a movie, the more compelling it is but the more likely it is also going to be a hard watch. Baise-Moi, A Ma Soeur, Kids, Lilya-4-Ever; none of them are officially biographies, but all of them are bitingly close to the truth. These dramas have so much to offer but are often almost unwatchable. Now we have Platonic Sex.
The film starts atop a tall building where seventeen-year-old Aoi, on her birthday, after being gang-raped and subsequently rejected by her parents, decides to end her life. She reaches out into the wind to let go and jump, only to be brought back to reality one last time when a text message appears on her phone. Although seemingly sent to a wrong number, the message gives her hope and she decides to live. Soon she falls into the world of prostitution and eventually, the adult video industry, where she makes a name for herself as the hottest young newcomer, going under the name of Ai.
Based on the international best-selling biography by Ai Iijima, Platonic Sex is the story of one girl’s harrowing fight to live. It captures both the sense of her desperation and the feeling of her being desensitised to the world after all of the horrors that it throws at her, charting her fall to rock bottom and seeming rise to fame. By the time she realises that her ascent in the adult video industry is actually more of a descent from the rock bottom that she thought she had hit before, it is too late. Amidst all this she thinks that she finds love with an apparent stranger but only finds her complicated life to be a horrible place for a relationship.
The story was intriguing and captivating, not wholly unlike the much less fantasy-laden Lukas Moodysson drama Lilya-4-Ever. Similar to that, the interest rests in the performance of the lead, Saki Kagami, who does a brilliant job at capturing the essence of this desperate, lonely soul. With a cute-ness that lies on the cusp of being beautiful, she draws your attention and carries you through the narrative, allowing you to see the emotion and lack thereafter of this young innocent who does not remain so. Joe Odagiri does a good job as the love interest, a barman at a club that she frequents, who also happens to be her guardian angel.
Overall, and although watching it seldom gives you a good feeling inside, the movie is well worth your time. Consistently depressing—even the romance is tainted by the state her life is in, you can clearly see how the material is largely non-fictional. Right from the start it is difficult to see the central protagonist as anything other than a victim and although that makes it hard to appreciate her as a sex star, it does show you just how real this drama feels. The female director Masako Matsurra has a keen eye for showing the horror in the subject—in much the same way as Catherine Breillat does with her harrowing tales—never allowing the movie to become a sexy, voyeuristic affair. Platonic Sex may not be a pleasant watch, but it is a compelling one.
Platonic Sex is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The clarity is fairly good, with nice observation of little details but occasional softness, particularly on the broader shots. There is no grain apparent but sometime the transfer does feel slightly dark, the contrast letting the side down a bit. The colour scheme is similarly lacklustre because of the darker tone and low contrast, with blacks that are normally quite solid. Although never distracting, the transfer is a little disappointing in terms of quality.
There is only one main track, in the original Japanese language. This Dolby Digital 5.1 offering is perfectly acceptable although not exceptional, with the vocals emanating clearly from the frontal array, a nice sense of atmosphere and effects through the surrounds and an unsettling score playing out mainly through the rears. Although not a particularly powerful track, the only sign of bass is during the more active club scenes—the mix still presents the movie quite well. The English subtitles are generally quite good, occasionally missing the odd word but nothing so much that you cannot understand what is happening.
There are just two basic extras on this disc, a theatrical trailer and very brief cast and crew filmographies for the main leads and the director.
Platonic Sex is a harrowing tale of the survival on the streets. Even if it is never a particularly pleasant watch, it manages to remain compelling to the end, not least because of a fantastic debut performance by the lovely Saki Kagami. With an average transfer and a solid audio track, along with a few extras to boot, it is well worth giving a look to if you fancy a slightly more serious Asian offering to watch. But be warned, it is a harsh ride.
You can purchase this title for $13.49 from Yes Asia.
Review by Casimir Harlow
Not suitable for young persons and children
Release Date: 1st May 2003
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Cast and Crew Filmographies
Easter Egg: No
Director: Masako Matsurra
Cast: Saki Kagami, Joe Odagiri
Length: 105 minutes
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