愛の渦 「Ai no Uzu」
Release Date: March 01st, 2014
Duration: 123 mins.
Director: Daisuke Miura
Writer: Daisuke Miura (Script/Stage Play/Original Novel)
Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Yoko Mitsuya, Hirofumi Arai, Kenichi Takito, Ryusuke Komakime, Tokio Emoto, Yu Nobue, Eriko Nakamura, Muck Akazawa, Tetsushi Tanaka, Yosuke Kubozuka,
“Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love”
From the song “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love”
A group of people gather at a well-furnished apartment in Roppongi for sex. They have from midnight to 5AM. The rules are simple: use condoms, shower between partners, respect women’s requests, and leave quietly without exchanging information at the end. It is meant to be no-strings sex, but for some it becomes more meaningful as the emotions that drove them to the party are tapped…
This is the set-up to Daisuke Miura’s Love’s Whirlpool, an erotic drama from 2014. It is adapted from his own 2005 stage-play that raised eyebrows for its nudity but ultimately went on to win awards. The film itself became a something of a hit on the indie circuit and it is easy to see why as it bridges the gap between mainstream cinema and pink films as known actors engaging in explicit depictions of sex you might see in softcore. The hook for those of a less prurient nature is the way that psychological drama and social status emerges amongst a group of anonymous strangers simply seeking sex.
We are given something of an in to this world of sex parties through the early introduction of two participants, a NEET (Sosuke Ikematsu) and a student (Mugi Kadowaki) who are joining one for the first time. We first see the NEET raiding the last 10,000 yen bills from his account to pay for entry – and he embarrassedly makes his way in – while join the shy student, on edge about the whole thing, as she gets a last-minute rundown of the rules of the party from the manager (Tetsushi Tanaka). His perfunctory explanation and tired demeanour give away that this is a business exchange he is facilitating, a feeling emphasised by the presence of a blasé assistant (Yosuke Kubozuka) who preps snacks and dildos while checking messages on his phone.
Once into the party itself, the rest of the cast are brought in. Their characters are archetypes you see in society: office lady (Yoko Mitsuya), nursery teacher (Eriko Nakamura), freeter (Hirofumi Arai), factory worker (Ryusuke Komakime), and fish market wholesaler (Kenichi Takito). They are strangers to each other and yet similar because they are all working off a desire for sex they would not be able to do in their normal lives. This may be a situation where clothes and social inhibitions are meant to come off quickly but, interestingly, their natural inclination is to retain some aspect of social interaction to break the embarrassment they feel, as evidenced by the painful silence that descends when faced with each other for the first time.
The women are the first to talk first, showing more socialisation and sophistication as they break the ice. Meanwhile the men are on their knees like lustful animals. Their wolfish eyes scan the room as they wait to be noticed all while they radiate desperation. However, sociality is hard to shake and so their unfamiliarity and differences with each other lead to conversations between each round of sex. Virgins are revealed, the “ugly” looked down upon, married men are exposed, and people discuss their hidden desires. They may be naked and anonymous at the start of the film but before they are clothed at the end we learn a lot about their lives in a public sphere.
There is nothing revolutionary in unique characterisation to be found but it is well done. The dialogue lends each character’s personality enough depth from which audiences can draw interest and their personalities lay the groundwork of conflict which flares up later in the narrative as people choose sex partners.
Humour comes in the comedic sight of a virgin losing their mind as they pop their cherry and the drama is found in the cruelty of mocking body types and sexual misfiring. The high drama of the film comes from two people forming a strong emotional connection amongst debauchery. As expected, it is between the NEET and student, the two more emotionally constipated members of the party. They take to sex with each other like rabbits but a coda at the end of the film suggests that one is much more aware that lust is fine in private but should not filter through to the real world, behaviour they admit earlier in the film, they find disgustingly hypocritical and weak.
The actors are outstanding in making the characters feel even more like real-life people with lives outside of this moment. Mugi Kadowaki really does shine as the student. She easily portraying a character flitting between a new-found enthusiasm for bedroom gymnastics and her timid nature as she remains aware of public perception. The sex is, as mentioned earlier, well shot with both male and female bodies on show and there is a sense of respect given to the performers rather than just a naked display of flesh and lust. At times it is adroit enough to be funny as an overhead shot from a camera revolving around a room full of fornicators, which might be meant as a bravura sequence, comes off as amusing. What cannot be doubted is that the performers throw themselves into their roles with bravery and they make an impression beyond baring their flesh.
This is an interesting anti-romantic drama in how frank it is about the desire for sex and the discussions of it range from honest to humorous to misogynistic without shying away from the rough edges. While not all that profound, its mature attitude to the desire for sex is welcome as is its commentary on the public vs private faces people wear in the world.