Daisuke YamanouchiKazuhiro SanoSalmon SakeyamaSheena Nagamori
Girl Hell 1999
Medium: film
Year: 1999
Writer/director: Daisuke Yamanouchi
Keywords: ero-guro, boobs, low-budget
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Natsumi Harada, Yuusuke Kimura, Toshimaru Murai, Sheena Nagamori, Tsuyoshi Okuno, Salmon Sakeyama, Kana Sakurai, Kazuhiro Sano, Yoko Satomi, Taishi Takemoto
Format: 65 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0371949/
Website category: J-sleaze
Review date: 4 October 2011
It's another sick film from the writer/director of Red Room, Kyoko vs. Yuki, Dead a Go! Go! and more. It won't make you vomit, unlike Red Room, but it's doing horrible things to the nuclear family and portraying men's desire for sex as bestial.
I thought it was impressive, but it's not thinking hard enough about its themes and thus ends up going somewhere that's both comedic and disturbing in a bad way.
I have a lot of time for Yamanouchi. The strongest of his films combine near-pornographic levels of sex with stomach-turning violence, but he's no empty shock-meister. There's often a lot to think about in his films. Personally I find his work richer and more interesting than a lot of mainstream movies, but no one's ever going to take it seriously because it's mind-wrenchingly gross, full of porn stars and can't have cost much more to make than a school play. This one has a particularly amateurish bit of shooting in the scene where we're standing outside and it's either midday or nearly sunset depending on which character happens to be talking.
The story though is startling. We begin with a conversation between two rapists, one of whom would like to stop. He's spotted a girl he fancies, you see. He hasn't spoken to her or anything, but he'd like to start doing normal things like going on dates instead. His friend laughs at him and they have an in-depth discussion of their daily rape routine.
That's still fairly mild, by the way. From there it gets worse.
The main character is Yoko Satomi, who's pretty and has an unbelievable home life. Her mother walked out on her father several years ago, leaving behind Satomi and her sister. I won't go into details about what happens at home, but suffice to say that you'd be tempted to give Satomi's sister a mercy killing. As for Dad, when he dies, your only regret will be that it was over too quickly.
Other characters include a feebleminded homeless woman who breastfeeds a doll, to whom Satomi seems to have a emotional attachment. Finally there's Satomi's fat friend (Natsumi Harada), who's a teenage prostitute.
This is all unpleasant, although more watchable than Yamanouchi's most extreme work. By his standards, the sex and violence are mild. What's interesting is what he's saying with it. Sex here is a weapon, wielded by men to inflict pain. Admittedly Natsumi Harada loves making money from it, but even she doesn't enjoy the act itself. On the job, she has the facial expression of a corpse. She's blanking out the sweating, grunting pervert behind her (i.e. taking her up the arse), who's old enough to be her grandfather and has a face slathered in either sweat or drool. Furthermore, when afterwards she's wiping her private parts, he asks if he could buy the used tissue.
I haven't even mentioned the stalker yet. Satomi has two male admirers. One is a murderer and serial rapist, but the other is a rich guy with a limousine, a chauffeur and the single most revolting object in the film. I don't know exactly what that is he put up there, but he's a sick man and you wouldn't catch me drinking that.
This is strong stuff, but furthermore Yamanouchi's not shying away from portraying the psychological damage. The homeless woman might be Satomi's mother, for instance. Satomi at some point seems to believe she is, anyway. Is this true and the poor woman's lost her mind as a result of her ordeals, or is Satomi going crazy? Either way it's an intriguing notion, but Yamanouchi raises the tastelessness stakes with breast milk. When mum gets her tits out, you get a drink. How are we meant to be interpreting this? Is it:
(a) sleaze
(b) meant to be taken literally, i.e. that she recently gave birth and then lost the baby, which would explain why she spends all her time breast-feeding a plastic doll
(c) a metaphorical link to Satomi's need for a mother, as is underlined by the creepy lesbian scene where she starts sucking her mother's nipples. This is easily the freakiest scene in what's already an abnormal relationship and it too is open to multiple interpretations. Is it a sexual rejection of men? Is it a return to infancy, drinking her mother's milk? Is it sleazy exploitation? Or alternatively is it all of the above?
This is shocking. There's a "GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, YOU IDIOT" moment in which Satomi seems to become a horror movie cliche, but of course she's worrying about her sister. Otherwise I was impressed. Towards the end, Yamanouchi even underlines his themes with a montage of family sequences to a tinkly nursery musical accompaniment. That's family sequences FROM THIS FILM, obviously.
Unfortunately it falls down at the end. Satomi's Worst Day Imaginable has been living down to the movie's title and it's all the fault of men, so in the end she breaks and where does it all lead? Why, to more violence down against women! Admittedly this is saying a lot about the broken psychological place to which Satomi's fallen, but it makes the movie's message disturbing in a bad way. The only difference in the end is that Satomi's joining in too. My suspicion is that Yamanouchi was simply making a cheap, sleazy film for the home video market and had little or no interest in rigorous themes, but instead jumped on a lurid title (Girl Hell 1999) and took it to his usual extremes. The results are powerful and have a virulent point of view because that's the kind of filmmaker he is, but if I'm right then for most of the time he was skating on instinct and at the end of this one, those instincts led him over a cliff.
Either that or it's a paradoxically feminist statement, saying that the evil men do can be so overwhelming that it could destroy women's hearts and souls. On this reading, this film's final scene is simply wreckage. However whatever interpretation one favours, the comedy decapitation was a mistake. It's slapstick gore and the film has no business making us laugh at that point. I suspect my reaction wasn't the intended one, though.
The cast are porn stars, by the way. You start looking up their CVs and you see that Yoko Satomi has an acting career... no, that's hardcore sex. You'll be impressed to learn that in the year she made this film, she also won the Pink Grand Prix for Best Actress in Wolf Teacher 3: The Smell of School Uniforms. Salmon Sakeyama? More sex. Incidentally Natsumi Harada was the body stockinged colonel in Kyoko vs. Yuki.
Is this a good film? Up to a point, yes. It's powerful and distinctive in its use of extreme content, but unfortunately it's making some unfortunate choices at the end. That could be argued to make it even more powerful, mind you. I'd recommend it, but only to people who don't mind watching disturbing semi-pornographic straight-to-video depravity.