Tokyo 2013 Review: DISREGARDING PEOPLE, Disgusting People

I often hear that Japan's post-bubble generation have a pessimistic view of the future, both their own and of their country. This negative outlook is often represented in art and film, and a sense of bleak hopelessness is certainly evident in Disregarded People. Films like this one repeatedly crop up in Japanese festival lineups, cold and bleak and sadly lacking in enough originality to make it a truly worthwhile watch.

Yusuke is a crude, humorless lout who comes to a small, declining island town, fed up with life and with the eventual aim of committing suicide. Into this picture comes Kyoko, a girl with a birthmark covering half of her face who is kind enough to smile at him. For this small act of kindness he attempts to rape her. Not having been able to finish the act Yusuke apologizes and Kyoko agrees to go on a date with him, because who wouldn't want to go out with a dull, charmless would-be-rapist? This gives Yusuke the chance to finish the job and Kyoko ends up pregnant. Kyoko and Yusuke are not the only characters having grotty, unpleasant sex, Kyoko's aunt, friends, co-workers and mother are all involved in grim affairs and sexual trysts. Yusuke marries Kyoko, but not before raping her aunt which leads to a ten year relationship between the two, while he is married to Kyoko. The characters struggle to find happiness in a world in which everyone is scarred by the past and the unpleasantness around them.

Yusuke, the crude, ugly protagonist is played by Omori Nao, a fine actor perhaps most recognizable as the titular killer of Ichi the Killer and who can be seen in the recent Matsumoto Hitoshi  vehicle R100. He does a good job here, despite having little to do other than lurch around being as unrelentingly abhorrent as possible, as does Miwa Hitomi as Kyoko, whose character starts off as a ray of sunshine in the grey community but soon grows to be as sour as everybody else. Side plots involving a newly married woman cheating with a respected factory boss and Kyoko's mothers sexual relationship with an older, unkind man, carried out in full view of her daughter, drives home the message that there's no comfort to be found in human lovers, all relationships are futile and ultimately damaging in someway, either to those involved or their offspring. There is also an unpleasant ambiguity about the rapes, the suggestion that the woman are enjoying it in some way and the fact that both women stay with the man afterwards leaves a nasty taste.
 
This is the fifth feature of director Sakaki Hideo who in describing the film talked about struggling to understand human needs and desires and said "I will be happy if this film makes you feel such uncertainty". Sakaki achieves his goal but fails to make an interesting film out of it. Even the most dramatic episodes are shot with little tension or flair, they just happen and the film, like Yusuke, continues to plod along undecided in where it's going.
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