ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
hanko (stamp) engraver Hidehisa Ebata tries to engage in
a relationship with a woman (customer). Not wanting anything long-term,
she agrees only to a session of sex, and becomes dismissive when
Ebata mentions marriage since they already had sex.
A porn actress
wants the security and commitment in a marriage and is willing
to succumb to various forms of sado-masochistic practices which
her boyfriend indulges in. He ties her up before fondling her
breasts and penetrating her from behind.
two of five alienated people who meet on the internet, form a
suicide pact and meet up to end it all. The others include battered
housewife Noriko Murayama, who desperately wants to look after
her daughter but is prevented from doing so by an abusive husband.
Then there is a waiter at a restaurant who has difficulty appearing
subservient as his job demands. Finally, there is high school
student Minami Aoyama, who might be a shoplifter or she might
be one of those girls who entertains male customers for extra
these people lead functional lives. But there is no meaningful
connection between them and other human beings. What's left, for
example, is physical abuse (for the housewife), abusive sex (for
the porn actress), and ridicule for the student and the waiter.
For engraver Ebata, he appears to make a decent living producing
seals and engraving stamps but finds his life meaningless. This
meaninglessness is exacerbated alongside another act in futility,
the war on Iraq, which is reported constantly on his television
of ending it all does sounds attractive - after all, none of them
seems to have anything to live for - and the gathering at Ebata's
home/workshop has the feel of a final celebration to life, or
whatever that's left of it. At the same time, the gathering also
unleashes hidden feelings among the members.
As a last
ditch effort, housewife Murayama not only has a fling with Ebata
but wants to fulfill what she sees as her mothering role in life
- she insists that Ebata calls her "Mommy" and, needless to say,
is all set to suckle Ebata. Meanwhile schoolgirl Aoyama gives
herself to the sullen waiter as the two share a bath before their
In a scene
that recalls those Sada Abe/Ai No Corrida movies, the porn actress
accidentally kills her boyfriend in a strangulation act before
turning up at Ebata's home. Feeling confused and distraught over
the matter, she decides to slit her wrists in the bathroom instead
of joining the others by gassing themselves.
porn actress' death raises questions of life and death for the
rest whose immediate reaction is another round of sex, or as one
of the characters says, the result of the progeny or survival
is considered a part of the successful Pinku Eiga (pink
films), a form of Japanese soft porn movies which are fairly low
budgeted - for instance, shot on 35mm; released through a chain
of specialised cinemas and are roughly about an hour in length.
Unlike porn films made in other countries, many well-known directors
- for example Miike Takashi, Ryuichi Hiroki (Vibrator) and Masayuki
Suo (Shall We Dance) - either had their start in pink films or
have pink films as part of their resume.
sex and nudity in the film are not gratuitous, the movie is actually
more about a quest for the meaning of life than a look at the
suicide cult (ala Sion Sono's 2001 Suicide Club/Suicide Circle
movie). With its sharp dialogue, Toshiya Ueno's Ambiguous (2003)
might attract even more fans if its English title had been a direct
translation of what it is in Japanese - "Obscene Internet Group:
Make Me Come!!).
Much to its
credit, the film is never preachy though the ending seems rushed
with the characters' emotional issues seemingly unresolved. Still,
Ueno's Ambiguous was voted best film at the 16th Annual Pink Awards
organised by pink film specialist magazine PG in 2003.
The Ambiguous DVD (Salvation Films) is banned in $ingapore.