In Toshiki Sato's Empty Rooms, bored housewives and "abandoned" husbands go in search of love, only to find their hearts' desires in unexpected places. Stephen Tan reviews.


Compared to other Pinku Eiga movies such as Shinji Imaoka's Despite All That (1999) and Takahisa Zeze's Tokyo X Erotica (2001), the sex in Toshiki Sato's Empty Rooms (2001) is considerably muted, but there is still enough of it to make this an interesting addition to the genre.

The movie opens with housewife Mao Nakagawa lying in an empty room. The sounds of a couple making love next door excites her and she starts to masturbate. Suddenly a man (Yuji Tajiri) enters and starts pacing about the room. He explains to Nakagawa that he stays next door and his wife (Yumeka Sasaki) is having an affair yet he has not the courage to confront his wife or her lover.

At home, Nakagawa is the dutiful yet lonely wife of Takeshi Ito. While Ito has a bad back and the couple has stopped having sex, Nakagawa still tries to interest Ito into having sex. While going out one day, Nakagawa meets Tajiri on the road. Tajiri is still trying to work up his courage to confront his wife. The two then spend time in a pachinko parlour before ending up dancing at a night club.

Husband Ito is unhappy that his wife is out partying and spies on her, leading to a confrontation at Tajiri's apartment, to which Tajiri's wife, Sasaki, tells Ito that it's fine if a woman doesn't stick only to one man. After all, women need variety too.

While Tajiri tells Ito that he'll not see Nakagawa, the two continue to meet and start having sex. Discovering the affair, Ito abuses Nakagawa and punches Tajiri but the affair also seems to have a liberating effect on Nakagawa. When Tajiri tells her that Sasaki wants a separation, Nakagawa decide to go to the seaside with Tajiri. While the sex (and what looks like a growing obsession) is good for Nakagawa, it seems too much for Tajiri and the two then return home. In the meantime, Ito meets a hooker who shows him that having sex will not destroy his back.

Back in his apartment, Ito is trying out his dancing clothes when Nakagawa steps in. The two then go to the empty apartment next to Tajiri's. Hearing the sounds of Tajiri and his wife making love, Nakagawa and Ito start to dance.

While there is a natural flow to the sex and nudity in Empty Rooms, using very broad strokes, director Toshiki Sato has hit out at male dominance in Japanese society. It is very clear that it is all right for Ito to be out drinking at night but not for his wife. And Ito is being extreme in his behaviour since his wife is being friendly with Tajiri (before the two started having sex).

On the other hand, the film seems to be stuck in some kind of stasis where the women are concerned. Tajiri's wife may be promiscuous but there is also a longing in her that draws her to Tajiri; and the ending of Nakagawa reconciling with Ito may or may not signal a change in the sexual politics between the two though the fact that Ito is trying out his dancing clothes indicate he is making some effort to please his wife.

A slow burner interrupted by bouts of intense sex, Empty Rooms is intriguing because viewers are kept guessing which life paths the different characters will take, but generally don't. But then, it always comes back to the sex and nudity to speed things along.

Note: The Empty Rooms DVD (Salvation Films) is banned in $ingapore.

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July 31, 2007

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