1992 Directed by Ryu Murakami. Starring Miho Nikaido, Sayoko Amano, Tenmei Kano, Kan Mikami, Chie Sema.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 27, 1993
Drenched in erotic reds and blacks, Tokyo Decadence leaves little to the imagination as it reveals the seamier side of the land of the Rising Sun. Ai (Nikaido) is a seductive prostitute who specializes in S&M theatrics (even in the film's opening shots, we see her strapped into a bondage seat, a gag covering her mouth, a blindfold obscuring her client as he injects her with (presumably) heroin). Definitely not a film for those of more conservative sensibilities, Tokyo Decadence is nonetheless an engrossing social study that -- consciously or not -- draws clear-cut parallels between the powerful sense of ceremony that pervades Japanese culture and the more, uh, secretive ceremonies that infuse its nightlife. Director Murakami is also one of Japan's best-selling and most prolific novelists (his novel Almost Transparent Blue won Japan's highest literary honor in 1976), and as such, the film is infused with a highly charged sense of the literary; it's almost like listening to an audio tape of your favorite author reading his own work, but far more visceral. As the prostitute Ai finds herself becoming further and further enmeshed in a world of illicit sex, drugs, and constant degradation, her mind begins to crumble, and she begins to fixate on a particular client, desperately seeking him out while reeling from the effects of too much everything. Whether or not Murakami intended this rambling, erotic nightmare as a metaphor for modern-day Japan is a question I'm not going to get into here, but the fact remains, Tokyo Decadence is a powerful, disturbing film, teeming with episodes of rampant passion, abuse, and beauty.