This is, for the most part, a very shiny film. It tells of 'Ai' - the Japanese word for love - a Tokyo call-girl who works for an S/M agency. Much of the film is taken up with languorous portrayals of her activities, the clients she serves, ranging from coked-up yakuza to spoilt yuppies, via almost every form of bondage, domination and humiliation you can conceive (plus a few more you probably can't!). The heroine does, however, balk at pretending to be dead... It's the stuff of which ultra-warped commercials are made, as it's shot through with a highly deformed gloss. A lot of it seems to happen in real-time, too, which has both benefits and penalties. It adds a realistic
edge, but S&M games are no different from any other porn, in that after a while, their interest value diminshes rapidly, unless you're a real connoisseur of such things.
After, oh, maybe 80 minutes of this, we get something vaguely recognisable as a plot. Or at least, something happens. After an especially aberrant session - just her, a dominatrix called Saki, a patron, a fruitbowl, a whip, an Art Deco dress and a plastic penis - Ai does some drugs with Saki and resolves to find herself. She does, after a fashion, but it's not quite what you'd expect, though the ending is not conclusive one way or another. Er, if you get my drift.... Despite this being the only section with anything like a story-line, I felt this section was the film's weakest. Director Murakami seems happiest when dealing with the twilight world behind locked hotel doors, his style doesn't transfer well to the suburbia where the film's terminates (the word 'climaxes' isn't appropriate in any of it's senses!).
But is this ArtPorn or it PornArt? On balance, probably just the latter, though it's chances of getting released in this country evaporated after less screen time than any Traci Lords film I've seen. But it's probably too varied to appeal to the tastes of any one devotee, and in any case, it's got music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, who shared an Oscar for The Last Emperor. I don't think his career has gone downhill that far.