Winner of the 2015 Grand Prize in the Fantastic Off Theater Competition of Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Makeup Room is one of those films that only get made in Japan. We are talking about a comedy about the porn industry, with no sex scenes and very little nude, which take place exclusively in a makeup room, thus looking more like a stage play than a motion picture.
The script revolves around the lives and personalities of 5 AV actresses, their thoughts, dreams and on and off set issues, although the main lead is Kyoko, a makeup artist with a sympathetic ear, which tries to solve every kind of problem, while focused on making the girls look exactly as the director wants them to.
From the beginning of the Makeup Room, a variety of issues occur: Kyoko’s assistant is missing, because she mixed the sets. The main lead, Masami, had a fight with her boyfriend, because he discovered what her job is and so is delayed. Sugar, which is meant to play a school girl, has a huge tattoo on her back, thus she has to change roles with Saki, who was supposed to play a loan shark. The director, a really loud and annoying individual, panics, but seems to erupt solely against the stuff and not the actresses and particularly against Kato, a jack of all trades assistant, whose is responsible for almost everything, including putting a sponge “inside” Saki, to stop her bleeding, while being kicked in the face at the same time.
The other two actresses are fundamentally different: Masako is a sex-loving veteran of the industry that took an absence of pornography running away with her fugitive boyfriend to Okinawa, where she worked as prostitute. She has currently returned because she loves the industry and cannot wait for her sex scenes, particularly a lesbian one with Masami. On the other hand, Matsuko is a newcomer making her AV debut that she scarcely had any sex in her life and is constantly crying. Her manager though insists she is actually a nymphomaniac.
Director and script writer of the film is Kei Morikawa, a former AV director, who initially wrote the Makeup Room as a stage play, thus the single set. The best aspect of his work is that he is able to extract excellent acting from his actresses that with the exception of Aki Morita, who plays Kyoko, are AV specific.
He makes a point of showing to the spectator that the adult film industry is not completely different from the “regular” one and that the people in it, are not sex crazed drug addicts, as the majority believes, but regular individuals that simply love having sex and do not mind getting paid for it. In that aspect, Saki, who thinks she is ugly, is disappointed because she hardly ever gets picked in the auditions, Masako reminisces with a sense of nostalgia the time when she was the main lead and Masami acts like a star (she whines when informed that she is having a lesbian scene, because she just had a manicure) and everybody around her treats her so (She gets to pick first which bento she is going to eat). I have to admit though, Beni Ito, who plays the latter, is gorgeous.
I particularly enjoyed the comical part of the movie that chiefly materializes through the performances of Nanami Kawakami as Masako and Kentaro Sakai as Kato, that are both hilarious, the former with her constant, almost irrational mumbling and the latter with the fact that everybody seems to yell at him, while asking him to do impossible things and he complies without any complaint whatsoever.
The only negative issue I have to mention concerning the movie is that it presents the AV industry in a way that must be far better than the realistic approach; however since this a chiefly a comedy film and not a documentary, this particular fact is to be expected.
Aki Morita truly excels as Kyoko, who acts as a loving relative to all of the actresses and is the one that keeps the balance in a film that could very easily jump the track. It is certainly not a coincidence that she is the only one that never leaves the stage. Her role actually is based on a real-life legend of the AV industry that passed away before the shoot begun.
Kentaro Sakai as the director is quite annoying, whenever he appears, though I believe that is what he was supposed to do, to indicate how erratic and demanding directors can sometimes be. Still though, his performance gets quite tiresome after a point
Makeup Room is obviously a low-budget film, however the cinematography by Shinji Kugimiya is quite accomplished, particularly taking into consideration that he has so many characters to fit into one room, and consequently into a single frame.
Third Window Films has purchased the rights for the film and is to release it on the 26th of October.