Can sex overcome death? Maybe not but it sure leaves a strong memory in Takahisa Zeze's Toyko X Erotica. Stephen Tan reviews.


Motorcyclist Kenji (Yuichi Ishikawa) comes across several dead bodies in a road tunnel. As he stops to take a look, he is overcome by poisonous gas and, as he lays dying, he poses the first of several philosophical questions: "Which is longer, the time before or after death?"

Flash forward to "The Time After His Death" and viewers meet Haruma (Yumeka Saski), Kenji's former girlfriend who is now a prostitute. She comes across a man in a bunny suit and takes him home for some kinky sex. First she does a slow dance in front of him, caressing her own body. He then tells her to masturbate. It appears that the man has a hard time coming, and not even with Haruma sticking her fingers up his ass or when she's licking his ass can satisfy him. After the sex (or whatever that's left of it), the man begins to taunt and humiliate Haruma before strangling her.

The next scene: "1995: The Time She Is Alive". Instead of focusing on Haruma, this "interlude" features a woman who is sort of obsessed with her boyfriend and there seems to be no end to the sex between them. In the first half of this sequence, the woman seems willing to bend over backwards, so to speak, for her man. In one of the film's striking images, the woman is tied up in such a way that it is the rope burn that is turning her on. Seeing a used condom on the table, she puts the semen into a water pistol and uses the toy gun to shoot at the man and then up her vagina. She then asks the man to lick her. Soon, she confronts him about his other girlfriend. He severely beats her up in response. The next scene shows the woman on the balcony and pointing the water pistol to her head.

Then a short cut to Haruma. Though she has broken up with Kenji, she still visits his apartment when he's not around and pees on the living room floor!

Next, another interlude involving four occupants in the living room which Haruma had peed on. The segment involves three-way sex and ends with one of the men, in Superman costume, shooting his girlfriend. Finally, a flash forward to 2002 (!) where Kenji and Haruma are together again.

With the number of shots involving bare breasts, pubic hair, bare buttocks and the way the different people have sex, it is hard to imagine Takahisa Zeze's Tokyo X Erotica (2001) anything but a Japanese Pinku Eiga (pink film).

In an interview, director Takahisa Zeze said: "I usually show consensual sex. I try to show relationships, I make films about love. It's not just about the act of having sex, but what leads up to it and what comes after. What are the feelings of the people before, while they do it and after they did it? It's this development that interests me. I don't care very much about rape, because it's very one-sided and doesn't allow for this kind of development."

Because the two leads in the film are killed off at the beginning of the film, what's intriguing, and probably confusing for some, about Tokyo X Erotica is that it becomes a (philosophical) examination of life and death - Death even appears in one of the segments - and because of the flash forwards and flashbacks - the film is also a comment on time and space. Death is nothing mysterious but it can affect the masses (the film also refers to the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo underground and when the Chinese army attacked the demonstrators at China's Tiananmen Square).

There is a videotape playing of Haruma in happier times in the scene where she is strangled, and some viewers felt that through such recordings, Zeza has managed to "preserve" life and thus "cheated" death. But it is perhaps the more primal urges of sex that bring out the humanity in Zeze's movie. As Death says in the film, he has no control over the actions of men before they die. To put it crudely, "I have sex, therefore I am" seems the last resort of Zeze's characters, for tomorrow they die.

Note: The Tokyo X Erotica DVD (Salvation Films) is banned in $ingapore.

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July 3, 2007

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