“Milocrorze: A Love Story”
Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s hyperactive ode to the destructive power of romance is all things at once -- focused on three narratives, “Milocrorze” attempts to encapsulate the crushing defeat of male romance as if it was exclusive to one sex. The picture is book-ended with a boy’s (later a man’s) crush on the immaculate Milocrorze, a woman of no discerning traits who appears to have storybook beauty and, for the sake of his fantasies, might as well walk on water. The tone is set for the rest of the film by making her an object of pursuit with no particular personality -- whether you’ll accept the film or not relies on how much you’re willing to accept this. Given that 90% of all Hollywood films are guilty of the same crime, it’s a bitter pill but one that we’ve all swallowed at one point.
The second narrative strain, more of an extended gag, revolves around a professional ladies’ man, a mixture of Tom Cruise in “Magnolia” and the con man from “Happiness Of The Katakuris.” He doles out romantic advice to his pitiful clients, following his sexual exploits with elaborate song and dance routines, but, naturally, the hole in his own heart cannot be filled by the one he loves. And finally, in feudal Japan, a cycloptic samurai pines for the one he loves despite professional and romantic entanglements that end up being quite lethal. Featuring the same actor in all three roles (Takayuki Yamada), these stories, with barely any connective tissue, play out like highlight reels more than fully fleshed out plots. But Ishibashi showcases moments of flair and personality (a single-shot slow-motion samurai brawl is a definite highlight) enough to overcompensate for a perfunctory story, keeping things colorful and active, if not necessarily dramatically compelling. [B-]
“Love And Loathing And Lulu And Ayano”
In Hisayasu Sato’s schizophrenic drama, we witness the evolution of a socially-inept cubicle drone into a mega-porn star. Of course, such things are a bit sketchy in translation, so a deeper understanding of the girl’s sexual peccadilloes has to do with an acceptance of the pornography in which she performs. Mostly, it is degrading sex work where she is subservient to the whims of groping men in a series of rape situations -- this writer wants to refer to them as "loli" but is not entirely sure what is the preferred nomenclature. Essentially, it's messed up.
Transforming into “Lulu,” she comes to terms with a childhood of emotional abuse at the hands of her domineering, promiscuous mother by devising a personality change into an “otaku,” an anime-loving victim of the whims of predatory males. But this psychological shorthand doesn’t take into account her reputation at the office, and, by extension, her social life, as Sato communicates her longing only through distant stares and a general lack of friendship. A relationship with a fellow starlet provides a source of subtle professional tension, but “Lulu And Ayano” ends up feeling half-baked, as we’ve become familiar with films depicting the corrupting influence of specific vices, in this case, dangerous sex. Nori Yasui gives a memorably possessed performance as a woman constantly forcing a bubbly alter ego on herself and others, but beyond her work, the film has very little to say about the human condition for anyone who doesn’t dress like a schoolgirl and have sex with masked lucha libres. [C]
“The Seaside Motel”
Multiple faces and personalities converge in “The Seaside Motel,” a comedy that mistakes manic for humorous. Director Kentaro Moriya, who uses every trick in his book to liven up what is meant to be a comically remote location (there is no sea around this seaside motel -- ha ha), keeps the camera busy, switching from slow motion to sped-up shots, capturing sequences and characters departing our reality through a punch, or a fall, or a different camera perspective.
But there’s only so much he can do about the characters, a group of has-beens and never-weres who see their lives converge in consistently contrived and far-fetched scenarios. They are all linked together by their relationship with an attractive prostitute, who has ties with some, and easily seduces others, but this is a curiously sexless film, focused instead on the boorish male characters who have no interesting goals or distinct perspectives. A lot happens in “The Seaside Motel,” but in the end, none of it really matters. [D+]