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The Strange Things Boutique




Blu-ray / DVD. Eureka.

GUILTY OF ROMANCEThe latest film from Suicide Club director Sion Sono concludes his ‘hate trilogy’ that began with Love Exposure and Cold Fish, and is an extraordinary visual feast that mixes elements of crime drama, pink cinema and horror into a remarkable tale of sex, madness and death.

The film interweaves a couple of stories – as policewoman Miki Mizuno investigates a grisly crime involving a dismembered woman who is missing her head, hands, feet and genitals, the film intercuts with the story of Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka), the obedient wife of a famous, and strait laced author who insists on an unchanging routine. Feeling bored with her life, Izumi takes a job selling sausages at a local food store, and is soon approached by a woman who offers her work as a model in softcore photos and videos. Reluctant at first, Izumi soon discovers a new side to her sexuality, and after a sexual encounter in a Love Hotel, meets Mitsuko (Makoto Togashi), who by day lectures at a university, but by night becomes a prostitute, happy to sell herself for whatever men will pay – it’s not the money, but the act of payment that matters to her, as she tells Izumi “when you fuck a man you don’t love, it has to be for money”. She takes Izumi on as a sort of apprentice, though her motives are not all they seem, and soon Mitsuko’s self-destructive path becomes apparent.

Never subtle – except in the use of classical music on the soundtrack - Guilty of Romance offers a sensory overload of colour and hysteria, as Izumi throws aside her meek demeanour and Mituko’s madness becomes ever more intense. There are literal explosions of colour, as bright pink paint balloons are thrown around – pink is the apt colour, as the film references production company Nikkatsu’s long heritage of softcore ‘pink cinema’ throughout, with extensive nudity and sexual activity.

Guilty of RomanceFrom the moment Megumi Kagurazaka transforms from the meek housewife into the sexual dynamo (a remarkable transformation, it must be said), the film is on full throttle (quite literally in certain scenes, as auto-erotic asphyxiation plays a significant part), slowly but steadily combining its disparate strands as the film reaches its dark conclusion. The cast are excellent, especially Makoto Togashi, who has an outward calm that always shows the insanity bubbling just below the surface.

There is a lot to think about here – the ambiguous sexual politics, the sexual violence and the astonishing visual construction of the film. But ultimately, it is a fascinating, visually arresting, continually provocative film that works on several levels and takes you on an unsettling trip into the heart of darkness.

Essential viewing.

Eureka's Blu-ray contains the International version as reviewed (there is a longer cut, with more of the policewoman's story, but by all accounts this edit is the definitive edition), as well as a 40 minute interview with Kagurazaka, and a commentary track from Jasper Sharp.





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