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Director: Masayuki Miyano
Screenplay: Tetsuya Nakashima, from Hideo Okuda
Cast: Tomoko Murakami, Hiroki Narimiya
Producers: Yuji Ishida
Smooth-talking Kenji’s 23 years old and, armed with a smile that sweeps ladies off their feet, he scouts the streets of Tokyo for young women he might coax and cajole into sex work. Tomoko is a 20-year-old shopgirl who, egged on by Kenji, begins ascending the ladder of the sex trade, from hostess-bar cutie to hooker to porn starlet. Hiroshi’s a slovenly, overweight freelance writer in his early thirties with a knack for repelling women and a problem with directionless lust and self-loathing—conversations with his own penis (a fuzzy green puppet!) don’t help. Yoshie is an housewife in her mid-forties with more than one secret—she dabbles in hardcore porn as a “mature actress,” for one, and the mountains of stinking garbage in and around her home conceal a far darker indiscretion. Koichi is a young karaoke-club attendant, an unstable sexual hysteric who channels his anxieties into an imaginary alter ego, the moralizing superhero Captain Bonita. And Sayuri is a coy, chubby twentysomething with a fondness for cutesy cosplay and a popular series of homemade, reality-TV-style porn videos.
Japan’s adult entertainment industry is notorious worldwide for its flagrant public presence and Byzantine complexity—there isn’t a quirk or perversion imaginable that it won’t cater to, and it isn’t shy about roping in its clientele. It’s a lurid demimonde populated by all manner of personalities, both partakers and providers. Alternately surreal and sordid, absurd and poignant, hilarious and shocking, LALAPIPO—an adaptation of writer Hideo Okuda’s collection of interconnected short stories—examines a number of these characters and how they affect each other’s lives, like an exercise in particle physics conducted in a pervert’s paradise. It’s worth noting that Tetsuya Nakashima, director of KAMIKAZE GIRLS and this year’s Fantasia offering PACO AND THE MAGIC BOOK, adapted Okuda’s tales for the screenplay. LALAPIPO is no lightweight soft-porn romp, but rather an incisive study of warped and wounded figures in a realm where intimacy is a commodity but genuine connection is heartbreakingly rare.