Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Japan Cuts ’15: Makeup Room
Japanese dirty movie business has a reputation for being more extreme than its
American counterparts, but its boundaries with the legit entertainment world
are more porous. Many Japanese pornstars become national celebrities and some
even crossover to the mainstream. After helming who knows how many adult
features, director Kei Morikawa has done just that with Makeup Room (trailer
a mainstream film about the porn industry that screens as part of the 2015 Japan Cuts Festival of New Japanese Film.
Japanese Adult Video (AV) standards, this will be a large-scale shoot. Kyoko
will have five actresses to makeup and periodically retouch. There will also be
some guys in the video, but nobody seems to care what they look like. She is
supposed to have an assistant, but the flake never makes it to the set. It is
just one of many things that will go wrong, but someone Kyoko keeps it all
first meet Sugar and Saki, two dependable “specialty” players, who are
distressed by the number of lines they must memorize. To further complicate
matters, they must switch parts when Sugar’s conspicuous back tattoo
disqualifies her from playing the “Lolita” role. Eventually, the star attraction
Masami arrives, immediately crashing in the makeup chair. Later, they are
joined by the enthusiastic veteran Masako, and a shy ingénue known as Matsuko
until the studio comes up with her permanent stage name.
his stage play, Morikawa keeps the action anchored solely in the makeup room,
but he makes a point of letting us hear what happens on the set. He embraces
the inherent staginess to emphasize the extreme difference between the two
rooms. When the actresses are on-camera, they are sex objects, but when they
sit in Kyoko’s chair, they are real women, with their own very particular
insecurities and neuroses.
actresses are all played by real life AV stars and they are each terrific in
very different ways. Regardless of the quality of their prior film work, they
can act. In fact, Beni Ito and Kanami Osako are shockingly moving as Saki (a
part-time prostitute struggling to catch on in the AV business) and Masami (the
young diva dealing with the repercussions of her notoriety), respectively.
Nanami Kawakami also displays first rate comedic chops as the brash (and still
very keen) Masako. Nobody takes it over the top or resorts to shtick, least of
all mainstream indie thesp Aki Morita as Kyoko. She gives a wonderfully
sensitive and suggestive performance that reveals so little about her character
in practical terms, it will have viewers creating their own backstories for
Room compellingly humanizes the
AV actresses, but it does not glamorize their business. Except for maybe Masako,
nobody is enjoying this career. Some seem to think it is a “sex-positive” film
or whatever, but if this empowering, you wouldn’t want to see exploitative.
However, it is all quite honest, and messy, and very human. Even though you
never see, you will clearly hear, so viewer discretion is advised. Recommended
surprisingly highly for mature audiences, Makeup
Room screens this Thursday (7/9) at the Japan Society, as part of this year’s
Labels: Japan Cuts '15, Japanese Cinema