LIFF 25: Guilty Of Romance (Koi no tsumi): Director's Cut - Cinema Review

'Shion Sono's film will take you down some dark alleys, show you a good time and then stab you where it hurts'

Guilty Of Romance might have a disarmingly innocent sounding title but don't be fooled, this is a deliciously dark, neon-lit, trawl through female sexual repression, misogyny and self-discovery. If you choose to watch it, Shion Sono's film will take you down some dark alleys, show you a good time and then stab you where it hurts. And that's just whilst its warming up.

Framing the stories of threesome Kazuko (Miki Mizuno), Mitsuko (Makoto Togashi) and Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka) is a gruesome murder from the pages of a modern Noir. As Kazuko investigates, Izumi's story of sexual awakening takes the fore and collides with Mitsuko's extroverted practices. It provides a welcome melting-pot of genre influences and minutely detailed character interactions. Horror definitely enters the fray as does Cronenbergian psycho-sexual drama, whilst the murder mystery twinkles slyly at you from the background. Its a film with an incredible amount going on and, on the whole, Sono blends the whole thing into an exciting, fast-paced package.

The problems are few but fairly obvious. Like seemingly every other film that deals with misogyny, Guilty Of Romance would feel a lot worthier of message if it didn't spend so long apparently presenting the female body for your titillation. Arguably, most of the sex and nudity has a deeper purpose, definitely the scene of Izumi practicing her sales pitch naked in front of the mirror, suggesting the real and frank reason why she has the job in the first place. Others though, definitely don't and with Kagurazaka in particular it does feel like Sono's camera is ogling her more than is strictly necessary. The pace too, pleasantly hectic throughout, almost comes to a dead stop during the middle segment where Izumi spends far too long discussing everything with Mitsuko. Cut out ten minutes or so of this and you start to get towards a more manageable runtime than this cut's one-hundred and forty-four minutes, although whether the plot was conveyed entirely satisfactorily in the UK theatrical release (just one-hundred and twelve minutes) must be questionable.

Aside from Izumi's initial sexual liberation (which, problematically, seems innately tied to her sexual victimisation, although this is ultimately reversed) the sexual politics of misogyny in Japan are well handled with both taste and daring honesty. It takes one too many trips into weirdness - watch out for any scene where anyone laughs - but you can't knock its aspiration and the thrill of its highs is addictive.

Look further...

'a grim and exhausting film, but it also shows a director who makes his points like no other' - Film Ha Ha

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