Tokyo X Erotica (2001)
By: Mr Intolerance on May 4, 2009  | 
Eclectic DVD (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 80 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Zeze Takahisa
Starring: Sasaki Yumeka, Sasaki Mayuko, Eri Naka Mariko, Ishikawa Yuichi, Itoh Takeshi, Satoh Mikio
Screenplay: Zeze Takahisa
Country: Japan
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Ahh, the V-film. That last bastion of Japanese independent low-budget weirdness. Without this magnificent industry we'd never have even seen half of Takashi Miike's prodigious output, let alone series of films like Guinea Pig, Red Room, All Night Long or Angel Guts. And that'd be a bad thing, in my book. Growth of ideas in cinema always begins in the underground before it's subsumed by the major companies in a watered down form. The underground is never complacent and is always a hotbed of fomentation of newness and fresh ideas (as well as derivative rip-offs of things we've seen a million times before, but hey, I'm trying to be optimistic here), which is one reason why I'll always have the time of day for new low budget films no matter where they're from (or how many times I've been burnt by them before). Imagine if back in the day some distributor had not marketed Night of the Living Dead, Shivers or Dark Star, simply because they were low budget indie flicks? Then we'd've had no Romero, Cronenberg or Carpenter. Always give the low-budgeteers a chance.

"Which is longer, the time before birth or the time after death?" This would appear to be the question the film is asking. And it asks a whole bunch of folks that in a hand-held camera scene at the start of the film. Why, you ask? Y'see, our boy Kenji dies at the start of the film (but he's coming back, so that's okay) in a terrorist gas attack. At roughly the same time his fly-girl Haruka, a hooker, is killed by a john – albeit a john who makes a living as an advertising gimmick in a fluffy pink bunny suit (but she's coming back too) – and her meeting with said john is about as rankly and abjectly depressing as you hope never to have with a chick. Re-incarnation seems to be the issue of the day, as both of them are coming back to meet in the really-real world.

Some of the sex scenes are positively comedic, as Kenji and Haruka's souls work towards meeting up again. I mean, sex is always funny to watch from the outside (best not to think of that from the inside – I mean, if you thought about what you looked like last time you topped your old lady, you'd probably turn a bright shade of crimson – think about the faces you were pulling and the movements you were putting in...), but here it's played up as being a bit of a laugh.

Kenji tries to get in contact with Haruka, but as she has some new sex-crazed salaryman boyfriend, that doesn't work out so well, despite the fact she obviously knows that there's a reason why she should be meeting up with the mysterious voice at the end of the phone, the one that's referred to her previous life. Parallels start being drawn between her previous and current lives, especially via the motif of the spoon with the bell at the end – the bell-end? Oh chortle, chortle...

Well now, there's an inventive use of a water-pistol on display – although I thought most girls went for the turkey-baster in a similar situation – and Haruka's new boyfriend doesn't seem to share the same sense of humour as her. He lets her know it, too, with a powerful beating. If you think back to Clerks, not everybody's into the "snowball"...

And then the non-linear narrative takes another turn for the bizarre. A drunken piss-up becomes the answer to all the questions of existence, apparently. Mind you, we've all been at that party before, usually at 3am. And usually with a skinful of booze so hi-octane, if we blew into the breath-tester, it'd implode and the cops pulling us over would die in the flames. But in this instance the non-linear narrative is one of the things that makes this film work. If it was a more usually structured film, I don't think it would succeed as well as it does, not that it's exactly an award winner as it is. But in keeping the time frame moving about, it keeps the audience's interest quite readily and makes for an interesting piece of filth.

Filth...yes...there are a number of times that Tokyo X Erotica simply descends into rather boring scenes of simulated sex. Look, I'm all for sex (preferably every Thursday 'round at my place), but watching drawn out depictions of it on screen is, well, dull. Sex on screen is rarely titillating. It's usually hilarious to begin with, then as it drags on, boring, and eventually so mind-gratingly dull that you'd sooner chew your own arm off than watch it. Like a game of chess, it's all good and dandy to be involved in, but who the fuck wants to watch it?! No one buys chess porn, after all.

And there are far too many fake facial jizz-shots in this movie for it to be even vaguely realistic. Yes, yes, yes, I know loads of guys like to think they can blow their wads on a chick's face – try that in real life and see how long you retain your balls. Maybe I've just been dating the wrong type of girl, but spurting your sploodge over a chick's chops is normally the cue for her giving you a vasectomy with her nails. Yeah, sure, happens all the time in porno, but this is the really-real, and it doesn't happen there unless she asks for it. And if she does, she's probably desperate and possibly psychotic (and probably about 300 pound). Trust me, I'm old, I've been around the block a few times and I know things.

Okay, the film lost me when Haruka met up with Kenji in the past, and Haruka was shot in the back of the head with a jizz-gun by a fella who was Kenji in the past/future dressed in a Superman outfit. Maybe it's too late, or too early, or something, or I've drunk too much, or too little, but I just didn't get that at all, as entertaining as it was. And then there's loads of windy talk about life and death by a whole range of characters, but I still don't see the ultimately optimistic end product of Haruka and Kenji getting back together again happening in any kind of real sense, oh, but hang on...

Oh, and right after I typed that, it was about to happen. Even the most jaded viewer or horror and exploitation flicks ultimately wants a happy ending, if not for the characters, then certainly for themselves. My own life is rather sadly like that of Rob's in High Fidelity, except the chick cheated on me and ain't coming back, met some other fella and is now having a baby – the nerd/collector thing is still about right, however, as is the re-ordering of my collection every time my life gets disordered. Still, you hope for the best, otherwise you'd just throw yourself off something high.

Umm..if you can spot the end of this film coming, then you are a certified (and possibly certifiable) genius. It's a doozy and no mistake.

Unlike a lot of V-films, Tokyo X Erotica is quite artistically shot. There's a fair amount of chop and change between colour and black and white, and a lot of changing in between colour filters, moving between quite naturalistic tones and super-saturated colours. The director is quite obviously trying to keep his audience interested via the picture, even if they're not totally into the narrative. The camera here is very active, practically alive, giving us different perspectives on what the characters are telling us. In some regards I was reminded of a superior version of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, in terms of this being a post-mortem tale, just a lot more explciit. Not to mention, more interesting.

Y'know, it's funny. As I was watching this film, that central, existential question kept going around and around in my head – what is the longer time? Before you're born – well, that's millions of years. After you die? Fuck, that could be forever! My only answer however, can be this – the longest time in the world is the time between drinks. I'm going to the bar – what are you having?
Well, like I said, it's a V-film, so it suffers from the usual glitches of such a format – over-bleached scenes when they're not too dark to see anything, pixellation during any kind of kinetic action scenes, a clarity that's almost hurtful to the eye – you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, in that regard. It's not a bad full-screen image, but it's a flawed one. I was expecting that, so it didn't bother me.
Again, as it was a V-film it didn't really bother me all that much. Hollow and "naturalistic", the sound is overly loud at times, without any kind of uniformity. Not being Japanese and not being able to understand the original language track, all I can say is "Thank fuck for subtitles!"
Extra Features
Nada. Not a single thing.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Hmm, well there's a great deal of sex, but not so much violence. And basically Tokyo X Erotica is a film for not so much the raincoater crowd or the gorehound set, but those who like a slightly arty soft-core porn film. The camera work is really, really good, and it's that camera work that elevates this above the usual V-film. An interesting film, and if you're the pervy type, worth your having a watch.

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