Kazuhiro NakaharaAki MoritaNanami KawakamiBeni Ito
The Make-up Room
Medium: film
Year: 2015
Writer/director: Kei Morikawa
Actor: Beni Ito, Nanami Kawakami, Lily Kuribayashi, Aki Morita, Takashi Naha, Kazuhiro Nakahara, Kentaro Sakai, Jin Sato, Akiyoshi Shibata, Takashi Shigematsu, Mariko Yoshimura
Keywords: boobs, Japanese porn industry
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 86 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4480648/
Website category: J-sleaze
Review date: 1 February 2019
It's what happens in the make-up room during the shooting of a porn film. We never leave that room and you could perform this as a pretty good stage play... which means we never see the actual porn, by the way, although there's some nudity. If you're looking for wank material, go elsewhere. The writer/director apparently made over a thousand porn films during his twenty-year career, most of the cast are real porn stars and the film feels truthful and down-to-earth.
Sometimes it's surprising just to see the nuts-and-bolts of what it's like to shoot one of these things. They, uh, don't worry too much about production lead time. "Me? I stayed up all night to finish writing this script! Arsehole!" That means none of the actresses have seen the script beforehand, but they'll still be worrying about (some of) the same things any actor does. They need to learn their lines, which might mean getting the make-up girl to read the script with them. She does so, including stage directions like, "Furious raping, facial cum."
In some ways, it's like any other film set. It's hard to learn your dialogue. Everyone needs hair and make-up. There are egos and prima donnas. Surprisingly, we see that the lead porn star also happens to be a good actress, when the director annoys everyone by deciding he needs to shoot in the make-up room.
However a lot of it is industry-specific. "Would you like to shower before your masturbation scene?" "Her boyfriend found out she's a porn star and she can't go." The girls don't like rape scenes much, but they're genuinely enthusiastic about the work and might, for instance, swap masturbation techniques. However they might return from the set needing emergency sponging because an actor fingered them too aggressively and they're bleeding down there. (The bloke who gets the sponging job isn't careful enough and gets kicked in the head.)
Last-minute hitches are also caused by the fact that this industry can't be too picky about its hiring. There's a casting swap when one girl's back turns out to be covered with tattoos. The acting quality is, uh, variable. (The hilariously bad actor apparently has a wonderful penis, though.) Make-up artists never turn up, or else the film's star might turn up late or so tired that she's falling asleep in her chair.
Most important of all, though, are of course the people. You get all sorts. Some are sad, some are funny and some are philosophical when you least expect it. One actress gets quite a long speech at the end about why she does it, how it's changed her as a person and what it means to her. One of the cast is a newbie, which means she's terrified and constantly bursting into tears. (Later, though, she gets so into it that all the girls run off to watch and then are full of praise for her "performance". That was funny.)
However you've also got more poignant people like the girl who thinks she's tall, fat and ugly. What eventually happens to her is harsh, not because anyone's cruel (they're not) but simply because she's a human being too and sensitive to being told that she's not required. "I wanted to believe that I had worth as a woman." I'm not sure her day job as a call girl is best for that, but even so she'd like to do more films and it's been ages since she last got cast in one.
The film's not a downer, though. It's got warmth and mental characters like the one who thinks "getting laid on set is the best boyfriend ever" and won't be happy if she doesn't shoot a sex scene. Getting paid for sex is better than having to go masturbate tonight again! She's also worked with this make-up girl before, so they have a long chin-wag about what she's been doing since they last met. "I retired half a year ago, but my ex was being hunted by the police for doing bank transfer scam calls. So we escaped to Okinawa. I worked as a prostitute there and then I came back. Maybe I love this industry!" They also discuss what this work does to your private life. "I had some problems with my parents, especially Dad. But I said, 'Hey, dad. Your daughter loves being filmed having sex and that's how I'm supporting myself!' So he stopped saying anything. He doesn't speak to me even when I go home for funerals."
Even the cameraman's a character. He's grumpy. He doesn't seem to like the director.
This film is much better than you'd assume from the subject matter and the obviously low budget. The director makes a virtue of his apparently static one-set film, creating compositions that feel both intimate and dynamic. Meanwhile the world everyone creates is warm, touching and funny. It's surprisingly charming just to see the kind of conversations these people have and what they'll be worrying about. It's a train wreck of egos, incompetents, last-minute screw-ups and madpeople who change their minds at the drop of a hat, but they're going to get their film made even if it means not going home until the small hours. So what if they have to drop the lesbian scene at the last minute? This movie is surprisingly good and clever.