Release Date: April 06th, 2018
Duration: 119 mins.
Director: Daisuke Miura
Writer: Daisuke Miura (Screenplay), Ira Ishida (Original Novel)
Starring: Tori Matsuzaka, Sei Matobu, Ami Tomite, Kenta Izuka, Yuki Sakurai, Erika Mabuchi, Kokone Sasaki, Kyoko Enami, Ruri Shinato,
Depicting female desire on the screen isn’t exactly rare but nor is it common, especially when compared to the extent male fantasies and experiences get the cinematic treatment. It certainly isn’t as explicit or as funny as Call Boy, an adaptation of Ira Ishida’s novel by playwright-turned-director Daisuke Miura. His eye for erotic shots and character quirks super-charges female-first sexual fantasies that Tori Matsuzaka bravely steps into.
The story follows Ryo Morinaka (Tori Matsuzaka), a student at a top-ranked university who works part-time at a bar. He’s bored with his daily existence of dating young women he sees as floozies and blowing off classes he has lost interest in so when he gets recruited to join an escort service by sophisticated and intriguing older lady Mido Shizuka (Sei Matobu), he has a new mission in life: to discover the passions of his clients and to fulfil them. Through that, he discovers more about himself.
Brooding and stylish, the film sees Ryo engage in episodic encounters which see him sleeping with a variety of women (and a guy), each of whom offers a fetish, from water sports to role play, and S&M. Occasionally he just offers a shoulder to lean on. His sex is so good that he can change a person’s life but each encounter has a greater effect on Ryo.
Almost all of the clientele are older than Ryo and this is part of a light dusting of psychology in the film as he has a “mother complex” that is explored with each of his assignations. Certainly, Mido Shizuka is set up as the “impossible woman” that Ryo wants to attain emotionally and physically, thus explaining his commitment to the escort lifestyle. Flashbacks and emotional confessions slowly reveal unresolved feelings Ryo has for his own biological mother and this backstory lends the film a certain poignancy when it reaches its climax.
Thus, each woman Ryo meets and pleasures along the way offers him a stepping stone in understanding himself and the experiences change him from an apathetic and slightly misogynistic loner to a more expressive and empathetic person. That written, the female characters are not solely in service to his character development as the film gives agency and backstory to each customer and date, allowing them to be sexual beings, complete with fetishes, demands, and control that you do not often see in films.
For people looking for the erotic, Call Boy has it all in aesthetic stakes and in performances.
Of course, it will be subjective as to what passes for sexy but as with his 2014 film Love’s Whirlpool, Miura puts pink films to shame, certainly with the benefit of a bigger budget that allows a level of polish and sheen to make the environments and encounters more palatable.
Think Red Shoe Diaries but with more energy, charisma, humour and class.
Time is spent building atmosphere and characters – Ryo accompanies Mido to moneyed Ginza to buy clothes, meets customers in fancy cafes in upmarket areas of Omotesando and sees the sights in Shibuya, etc. Between each encounter, light jazz is played and dialogue contains enough character meat for the audience to chomp on before sex scenes ensue. The performers give it their all as they bare all, the director framing them in ways to maximise the erotic while keeping some hint of respectability. And Matsuzaka bares his ass a lot – his Roppongi clubland scene likely fulfilling the fantasies of a diverse range of people.
Sound design is highly responsive as it revels in the gasps and cries of women driven to a lustful frenzy and Ryo responding. There is the sound of sucking kisses and the slap of thigh against ass, and the squelch of, well, I’ll leave that for you to discover, coming through the speakers energetically. However the sex occasionally has a tongue-in-cheek touch as there is a LOT of humour with unexpected requests and an audacious a cum-shot that got me curious as to what the reaction would have been in a packed cinema.
Some of the sex is arousing, some of it funny, it becomes painful in the one “real” or “conventional” relationship Ryo has on offer. To the films credit, it doesn’t suggest what he is doing is bad even if it is illegal. Like the 2019 film It Feels so Good, it capture the power of desire and sex. While none of comes from a passionate love like that aforementioned film illustrates, it shows that sex done in a respectful and playful manner is liberating and fun. The film does not dodge the issue of STDs but its focus is on the effect of understanding a person through raw physical passion and erotic mental stimulation and it shows how it can lead to greater self-understanding.