December 13, 2011 – 4:35 am

In Mamoru Watanabe’s Tokyo Desire (2004), it’s one thing when a young girl has a life-long crush on an older, married man but things get twisted when she ties in bondage into the foreplay. Stephen Tan reviews.

Returning home, primary school student Yuka finds her cousin, Reiko, and her husband, Inoue, visiting her father, Tomoya. Assistant lecturer Inuoe tells Yuka, who is wearing a patch over her right eye: “Look into my eyes. You can see your reflection.” And that’s how Yuka started to fall in love with Inoue.

Now, on the verge of turning 17, Yuka is deeply infatuated with Inoue, even burning off Reiko’s image in a photo she shares with the couple. And the good news for Yuka is that Inoue and Reiko will be moving to the house next door.

Taking advantage of the situation, Yuka visits Inoue and when Inoue mentions that Reiko complains about his cigarette smoke and the musty smell of his old books, Yuka bursts out: “Why don’t you divorce Reiko?” Seeing the book Ocean Lily on the shelf, Yuka decides to borrow it though Inoue tells her - in not so many words - that it’s an erotic book.

Later in her room, Yuka strips down and rubs a cigarette butt (which she took from Inoue) over her breasts. Yuka’s masturbatory sex is then shown in contrast to Reiko and Inoue more “earthy” love-making.

After work one day, Inoue runs into a former student who is a hooker now and the meeting is witnessed by Yuka. Inoue and the young girl spend some time at a love motel while that night, Yuka pricks her finger with a pin and smears the blood on her lips to simulate a lipstick. Yuka’s feelings for Inoue intensifies and she tells herself: “I didn’t care if he was sleeping with someone else out there. It wasn’t my concern. I only wanted to tell him my feelings.”

Staying over at Inoue’s, Yuka approaches Inoue at night. She comes on to him by describing the erotic book of a girl who underwent a bondage ritual to lose her virginity. She assumes the position of the girl with her hands tied behind her back and asks Inoue: “How much does it hurt when you do it? I don’t know what it feels like yet.” However, Reiko appears and that puts an end to their conversation.

Finding Inoue alone the next day, Yuka tells him: “I want to be alone with you. I will be waiting for you at my house tomorrow afternoon. Come see me if you love me.” But it is Reiko who shows up. Reiko tells Yuka that she is aware of her crush on Inoue and that Inoue had also confessed to his fling. But she forgave him because she is carrying their child and that both Reiko and Inoue will not see Yuka for the time being. To which Yuka responds: “I know I love him much more than you do. If I were you, I would never let him cheat on me.”

On her 17th birthday, Yuka gives herself, in a bondage ritual, to a stranger who thinks she is just another hooker on the street. Returning home where her father, Reiko and Inoue are waiting to celebrate her birthday, Yuka creates a scene which perplexes her father.

Tomoya approaches Inoue while the latter (even though he doesn’t know) tries to placate Tomoya by saying that nothing had happened to Yuka. Out on the street, Yuka pushes the pregnant Reiko down the stairs. Inoue returns home that night to find Yuka waiting for him. She tells him that she pushed Reiko and how Reiko had bled.

Yuka has reached the point where she will do anything to get Inoue’s attention. She says: “I need to be punished. Screw me!” She continues: “I won’t ask you to love me anymore. But if you can’t love me, I want you… to hate me.” In return, Inoue gives her a friendly goodbye kiss and says: “It’s all my fault… So I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear anything about you shoving Reiko away. Instead, I will never see you again. We will move out shortly.”

But the disappointment and hurt is too great for Yuka, who feels that Inoue should either love or hate her. To be simply forgotten is too much to bear. Yuka then picks up a piece of broken glass and stabs Inoue.

There is a pensive and elegiac tone, in part generated by Yuka’s narration, to Mamoru Watanabe’s Tokyo Desire (2004) that doesn’t seem quite warranted. The sad tale of a young girl with a crush on an older man that ends with tragic consequences has been told often but there isn’t much in Tokyo Desire to drum up any emotional support for Yuka or any of the characters.

With a mother who passed away when Yuka was young and a father who appears constantly away, Yuka comes across psychologically damaged but there is nothing to explain her situation, and her infatuation with Inoue is more like a case of imprinting - she ends up following the person who was nice to her.

Reiko, who senses Yuka’s crush on Inoue, perhaps could have done something but left things to drag on and instead turns her attention on herself and her unborn baby. The biggest drawback in Tokyo Desire is Inoue who plays the role of the unrequited lover with a lot of hesitance. What he is hesitant about is never clear.

If the movie tries to paint an ambivalent picture of Inoue - is he leading Yuka on or not - then, then it failed. There is something wrong with Inoue who is blind to the fact that Yuka is coming on to him. And if he is not leading Yuka on, then shouldn’t he make his feelings clearer? Or what if Inoue, who has no qualms sleeping with a former student, really is interested in Yuka? That could have given the film a different twist but with that blank or questioning look, Inoue appears no wiser to the events happening around him.

Which then comes back to Yuka. Here, actress Risa Odagiri does a pretty decent job presenting Yuka first as a naive schoolgirl and later as a vengeful siren. When called upon, she does have a sexy, come hither look but unfortunately, underneath it all, it is still a blank.

Unwittingly, Tokyo Desire does reiterate the rape fantasy that appears prevalent in Japanese movies (and psyche?) More than once, Yuka asks Inoue to “screw” her. And she does this in a bound (dominated) position.

Tokyo Desire’s main motif is the one-seeing eye. The young Yuka has a patch on her right eye and that has skewed her view of life. Later on, she tries to seduce Inoue while wearing an eye patch and she also has the eye patch on when she pushes Reiko down the stairs. Yuka says: “With only one eye, you can almost reach it but not quite.” Unfortunately, Tokyo Desire’s vision is also not quite there.

Note: The Tokyo Desire DVD (Wide Media) is banned in $ingapore.

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