In a cinema as the Japanese, where erotic scenes seem almost forbidden (except from exploitation films, but that is a whole new other level of depiction), it feels quite reinvigorating to watch a movie that is fairly graphic in its portrayal of sex. “Call Boy” does just that, but probably its biggest trait is that it avoids becoming crude, almost completely. Let us take things from the beginning though.

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The script is based on Ira Ishida’s homonymous erotic romance novel, which was nominated for a Naoki Award in 2001, earning widespread attention and support from women readers before being adapted to the stage in August 2016, directed by Daisuke Miura and starring Tori Matsuzaka. Selling out every show, the play garnered massive attention due in particular to the actors performing completely nude in front of the audience. Now, the same Miura-Matsuzaka duo has risen to steeper challenges by bringing the story to the silver screen.

The film revolves around Ryo, a university student who works part-time at a bar, trapped in an uneventful life, stripped of any kind of purpose. All these, however, change when his friend Tajima introduces him to Shizuka Mido, a woman who runs an escort service for women. Mido takes completely control of Ryo, first testing his abilities in sex by making him have intercourse with a Sakura, a deaf girl who seems to be under her protection, and actually evaluates his performance, giving him pointers to improve in bed. Soon Ryo finds himself with a distinct sense of purpose, to satisfy even the most “extreme” women’s desires, while learning much about a gender he used to consider boring. By exploring their desires, he is eventually forced to take a look at his own, and consequently, himself as a whole.

Let us begin with the obvious. Daisuke Miura has directed a film that includes a plethora of the most graphic sex scenes ever to appear in a mainstream film, that combine realism, both in image and sound, with a visual prowess very rarely witnessed in erotic films. This elaborateness benefits the most by Jam Eh I’s stylistic cinematography, which permeates the whole film, inducing it with a dreamy atmosphere that occasionally touches the borders of the noir. This sense is also implemented by Zensuke Hori’s editing, that allows the film to proceed with a relatively slow pace, which seems to suit its general atmosphere in the best way. Hirokazu Kato’s sound is also a major factor in the realistic presentation of the erotic scenes, while the jazzy soundtrack by Yoshihiro Hanno heightens the overall aesthetics of the film even more.

Of course, the above elements would not be complete, if not for the outstanding looks of the majority of the cast, which, apart from Tori Matsuzaka, also includes Ami Tomite, Sei Matobu, Kenta Izuka, Yuki Sakurai, and a number of others, all of which seem to appeal to a different demographic in terms of sex appeal.

None of the above however, means that the film is solely focused on sex. On the contrary, Daisuke Miura directs a movie that uses eroticism in order to present a number of comments, most of which revolve around desire and the true nature of women, with the film examining this topic in almost every age. In that fashion, the movie explores a number of desires that could be easily considered as “fetishes” but in reality are quite more common than anyone would think, although they are usually buried under layers of pretentiousness and a need to appear “normal.” The sincerity and sensitivity Miura addresses these themes is one of the film’s biggest traits.

At the same time, and through all the above, Miura analyzes his main character quite thoroughly, particularly through the changes he experiences as he is acquainted with women and their desires. In this aspect, the movie benefits the most by Tori Matsuzaka’s acting, who presents his transformation from an ignorant youth to a mature young man, quite realistically but also with a lot of gusto. Ami Tomite is also great as a Sakura, as she presents a combination of innocence and resolve about her desires, with the latter actually pouring from her in some scenes, despite the fact that she does express herself vocally. Sei Matobu is very convincing in the role of the troubled mentor as Shizuka Mido, with the chemistry among the three of them being one of the film’s best assets.

“Call Boy” is a great film, which, despite the fact that it will spawn (much) controversy due to its graphic nature, definitely deserves a watch for the underlying comments, the knowledge of woman nature, and its general atmosphere. And to be completely sincere, you will enjoy the sex scenes.

Call Boy is screening at Japan Cuts 2018

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