ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
(Pink Films) director Mitsuru Meike might be better known for
the cult movie, The Glamorous Life Of Sachiko Hanai (2004), but
the low-key Bitter Sweet (2004) is no slouch either.
is on the verge of getting married to Tamura (Takuya Fukushima)
and goes to the marriage registry for the registration form. She
meets chef Kudo, who is there to pick up a divorce form. That
evening, Shoko has dinner with her friend at Kudo's restaurant
but she returns alone later that night. Plagued by her own uncertainties
over the impending marriage, Shoko is also interested to find
out why Kudo is thinking of divorcing his wife. However, Shoko's
passion gets the better of her and she ends up having sex with
Kudo on one of the restaurant's tables.
Shoko not to get "hooked" on him, Shoko's relationship with Kudo
deepens and she begins to neglect Tamura to the point of not answering
his calls. While Kudo looks after the material needs of his wife,
Keiko (the late Yumika Hayashi), and his two children, he is away
at the restaurant most of the time and feels that he'd be happier
on his own. Meanwhile, Kudo's friend, Yoshida (Kazuhiro Sano),
who is suffering from cancer, is hospitalised. It's slowly revealed
that Keiko was Yoshida's girlfriend whom Kudo "stole," but after
they were married, Yoshida had forced himself on Keiko and that
her eldest son is Yoshida's.
only 58 minutes, Bitter Sweet is a lean and trim movie about the
uncertainties of marriage, being in love and hanging out with
an older and more matured man, and about finding happiness in
and out of a marriage.
As the lead,
Konatsu gives a strong performance as a young woman besetted by
doubts and who, as it appears, manages to calm her fears through
sex. To Meike's credit, there are no "villains" in the piece.
Just that people fall out of love (of course, the basic idea being
that they were never "in love" in the first place). Some women
viewers, however, may baulk at the idea that Kudo has it good
and enjoys the best of all worlds - he ends up with the adoring
Shoko after getting his "freedom" from his wife. The "twist" in
the film is that it is Keiko who hands him the divorce papers
though he is shown throughout the film thinking about divorce.
But the movie
does underline the position of women in Japanese society. Kudo
demands sex from his wife Keiko but ignores her when she tries
to vent her frustrations. In Shoko's case, even when they are
not married, Tamura expects Shoko to "behave" herself, but it
is all right for her to give herself sexually to him. And for
Shoko, she naively thinks, or is conditioned to think, that the
fastest way to a man's heart is to give him a blowjob. Or that
sex will solve all problems.
opens with a drunken Yoshida recalling the sex he had with Keiko.
As the movie title suggests, this sequence is supposed to cast
a certain shadow over the rest of the film. Unfortunately, the
rest of the characters act too independently of this fact and
the result of this coupling - that Keiko's eldest son is Yoshida's
- has very little reverberation in the movie.
paced and thought-provoking, Bitter Sweet can be seen as an understated
movie. But for Pinku Eiga fans, this is certainly not where
the nudity and the sex are concerned.
The Bitter Sweet DVD (Inter Film/Uplink) is banned in $ingapore.