パーク アンド ラブホテル 「Pa-ku ando Rabu Hoteru」
Release Date: April 26th, 2008
Duration: 111 mins.
Director: Izuru Kumasaka
Writer: Izuru Kumasaka (Script),
Starring: Lily, Chiharu, Sachi Jinno, Hikari Kajiwara, Kanji Tsuda, Ken Mitsuishi,
The lives of four women meet at Asyl Park and Love Hotel, the titular establishment in the heart of Tokyo. Eschewing the erotic potential that the title suggests, this film leans more in favour of showing the loneliness on the characters, particularly the absence of men.
High atop a faded love hotel in downtown Tokyo is a park that doubles as a community recreation ground. Amidst a forest of grey concrete buildings and a cacophony of cars and crowds, the leafy park offers respite with singing, music, the laughter of children and the hubbub of old folks talking. It is a place of respite from the loneliness and dehumanisation of urban sprawl.
The stories of each of the women who end up there start the same way: they all wander into the park in a hustle and bustle of energy that masks their pain. Each of their stories are slowly parsed out during their encounters with the landlady of the love hotel, Tsuyako Tamaki (singer-songwriter single-named Lily).
First comes 13-year-old runaway Mika (Hikari Kajiwara) with luggage, a Polaroid camera, an unruly attitude – symbolically shown by her dazzling silver hair – and father issues that see her refuse to enter his home and, instead, to stay at the hotel. Housewife Tsuki (Chiharu) follows. She is a woman with an obsession with power walking whose route often passes by the love hotel every morning. Her reason for her constant exercise is connected to her husband. Then comes salty-mouthed 17-year-old Marika (Sachi Jinno) who appears to be the only person using the hotel for its purpose as she visits with a different man every time but always carrying the same attaché case and hostile attitude. Her agitated behaviour is linked to her fertility.
To the women who wander in, the park is a safe haven and Tsuyako becomes something of a maternal figure offering the sternness and support that gives them the push to seek harmony with the world. Meanwhile, as each woman’s story moves forward, their interactions with Tsuyako reveal more of the tight-lipped woman’s past and the reason for the park’s existence.
While the film adopts something of an episodic structure with each of the women, it is easy to forget the schematic design due to Tsuyako’s overarching story and the intersecting lives of the characters as they pass each other by on the street, in the lobby, and on the rooftop. This allows for some foreshadowing and some red-herrings that play with audience expectations. Wisely, a sensitive script avoids too much backstory and time is spent on slowly keying in to individual problems while never getting didactic or too literal with emotions and exposition.
Visual symbolism does a lot of heavy lifting, from the change in Mika’s hair as she grows up to many other striking images and sounds. Viewers intuit a lot from Tsuyako’s behaviour and surroundings as she maintains the fading hotel’s routines that were left behind by her absent husband. Her one departure from normality is the park she maintains on the building’s roof, a leafy community site. The presence of park-goers emphasises the absence of people in her private life.
While each of the characters slowly come into focus as women dealing with loneliness, their situations also offer indirect glances at the difficulties women may have living in a conservative culture. In one sequence, Tsuki responds to men on the street with a degree of defensiveness and worry. This is all founded on a strong sense of the film tapping into the human condition and our desire to be with others. Love hotels are more than just places for sexual assignations but also connection and there is an aching desire for connection emanating from the characters. In these ways, the film is quite an absorbing drama that respects our ability to connect with the women.