Ryuichi Hiroki combines his pinku past with his social film present to portray a plethora of stories that occur during a 24-hour period and interweave through a love hotel in Tokyo’s Red Light district.
Saya is a singer-songwriter who tries to take the next step in her career. She lives with Toru, and although the two of them are in love, the sex has stopped. Toru supposedly works for a five star hotel, but actually is a front desk attendant in a love hotel called Atlas. Mena is a Korean call girl that meets her clients in Atlas. This is her last day in the job, since she is returning to Korea to open a beauty salon with her mother. Her departure is a subject of tension between her and her chef boyfriend, Chong-su, who does not know her occupation. Satomi is the middle-aged cleaning lady of the hotel, who has been hiding her lover for 15 years in her house, in order for the statute of limitations for a crime they committed to expire. Miyu is a college student who also works in the porn industry and is shooting a film in Atlas. Hanako is a teenager runway that falls in the hands of Masaya, a procurer of prostitutes for a gangster, and is seduced by him. Lastly, Rikako is a married cop that secretly meets with her lover named Ryujei, another cop, in Atlas. Rikako spots a supposedly disappeared criminal in the hotel. Not all episodes carry the same weight, with Toru and Chong-su’s stories being the central ones and the rest revolving around them.
Ryuichi Hiroki has two objectives in this film and he succeeds in both. The first one is to present a number of entertaining stories centered on love and sex, and the second to depict the actual circumstances of love hotels and the sex industry, in general, as working places. In the first aspect, although not all of them are explored in depth, they all have something to say. For example, the one with Toru and Saya makes a comment regarding the music industry, the ones with Mena and Hanako regarding prostitution and the one with Miyu regarding the porn industry. The second aspect presents the situation in disillusioned fashion, as the occupation in the particular industry is depicted as something that can be much degrading and sometimes, even dangerous. The general aesthetics, though, are kept at an entertaining level rather than a very serious, social one and the various sex scenes (two of them are quite steamy) add to that sense. Along with some dramatic nad some comic elements ,and the fact that not all stories have a happy ending, Hiroki presents a quite realistic view of life. The sole fault I found in the direction is that the film starts and ends with a song by Atsuko Maeda, who plays Saya, in an evident promotion stunt.
The casting is one of the film’s greatest assets, combining diversity with great skill, from the majority of the actors. Apart from Maeda, it includes Shota Sometani as Toru, who proves his ability in portraying different characters once more, gorgeous Lee Eun-woo as Mena (you might remember her form Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius), cult favorite Nao Omori, an unrecognizable Kaho Minami who is great as Satomi, and many more, all of whom give adequate performances, to say the least.
As most of the film occurs inside the hotel, the Atsuhiro Nabeshima’s cinematography focuses on realistically presenting the specific environment, and in that aspect, he does a great job. Furthermore, the various rooms that differ much from one another are a definite sample of the elaborateness of the production values, and the editing by Junichi Kikuchi makes the constant switching of stories understandable and harmonically connected.
“Kabukicho Love Hotel” is a great sample of contemporary Japanese cinema and a very entertaining film.
“Kabukicho Love Hotel” is part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme starting in February 2017