Tokyo Decadence

aka Topâzu, Japan 1992
Director: Ryu Murakami
Starring: Miho Nikaido, Masahiko Shimada
IMDB: 5.9

The fourth feature film written and directed by the Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami (Coin Locker Babies) revels in S&M episodes that seem to owe less to the Japanese tradition of the "pink film" than to such Euro art-bondage movies as Maitresse and A Woman in Flames.

Visually, the sequences stop well short of hard core, and emotionally they are amorphous, too, even less unsettling than standard porno fare. What ultimately saps the movie's strength is its schematic approach to character. The loosely structured picture tags along after a timid young woman named Ai (Miho Nikaido), a recent college graduate who has found work in the big city as a hooker specializing in low-impact bondage.

Ai seems less a character than a convenient object for Murakami's flip sense of high-tech alienation. (She claims to have learned only one thing in life: "That I have no talent of any kind.") The nonstick surfaces of her daily life, like her personality, are almost completely without distinguishing features; the only gestures she makes toward taking control are some superstitious rituals prescribed by a sidewalk fortuneteller.

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