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Tokyo Decadence

Japan (1991), 135 minutes
Starring: Miho Nikaido, Sayoko Amano, Tenmei Kano, Kan Mikami
Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
Genre: Drama
Rating: 4

Many Japanese films are studies of erotica, and the term “pinku eiga” refers to this genre. However, unlike the brain dead “R” rated films that dot late night cable channels like Showtime and HBO, these films are far more than scantily clad actresses mugging their way through mindless sex scenes.

In the case of Tokyo Decadence, we share a young woman’s loneliness in a world she can’t get a handle on. Earning a living as an S&M call girl (giving pain to moguls who crave it, and taking pain from others), she is both innocent at heart and simple of mind.

Shot in rich, artistic hues, this powerful film explores the schism created by her profession and her hopeless search for happiness. Longing for the romance she once had, she submissively glides through a seedy world that, clearly, will lead to her doom.

Unlike the ludicrous Pretty Woman, Tokyo Decadence doesn’t give us a fairytale end, and it doesn’t pull any punches. Thus, it’s not for everyone (to say the least!). However, if you aren’t afraid to look at often-sublimated desires and eyes full of desperation, then your viewing experience will be satisfying and profound.
I should add that the final surrealistic/artistic end brings a completely different energy to the picture, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. I first saw it 16 years ago, and watched it a few more times since then. However, the movie and I parted for several years, so I watched Tokyo Decadence recently (for the 5th time). It’s just as powerful and enjoyable now as it was in the past.