Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So after watching a couple of Japanese exploitation films such as ‘Ninja Vixens’ and those ‘Zero Woman’ flicks I gotta admit I was a bit disappointed in my Japanese brothers and what they’ve done in the exploitation arena. I mean I’ve seen my fair share of ‘ahem’ Hentai – for research purposes for this site of course, and I know they can do better. Then here comes Japanese director Takashi Ishii who apparently specializes in just this sort of thing and he has shown me that I have simply been looking in the wrong places for some Japanese exploitation done right. This doesn’t exactly mean that his movie ‘The Brutal Hopelessness of Love’ is actually good, but it sure is plenty exploitative.

The film opens with the character of Nami, played by distractingly lovely and criminally over-developed Mai Kitajima, attempting to free some poor girl from some evil white slavers. Well things don’t go so well and the next thing you know Nami is roped to a chair, partially nude, spread eagled, with jumper cables clamped to her nipples. As uncool as that sounds, or at least I hope that sounds uncool to you, it’s really all good as this is simply a scene from a film for Nami who is actually an actress shooting a movie.

Flash forward to Nami in a room with entertainment reporter Katsuguri (Naoto Takenaka) who is asking her various questions about her life and in particularly this movie that she is filming that we have just witnessed a scene from. This movie is a movie within in a movie (within our movie) chronicling the life of an actress attempting to make a movie while her husband is cheating on her with a young ingénue. It just so happens that Nami’s real life husband actor Yosuke Tsuchiya (Toshiyuki Nagashima) is cheating on her with young pretty actress Junko Kitame (Mikage) in real life with both actors actually being cast in this movie she is shooting.

Since the character in this movie is having so many personal problems she decides to deal with these issues by picking up various freaky men off the streets of Tokyo, taking them to the abandoned hospital that she was birthed at (what this represents beats the hell out of me), sexing them up real good and then charging them admission. The character in the movie is being protected by her manager Okano (Kanji Tsuda) who attempts to clean up her prostitution activities and keep her out of the peering eye of the sensationalistic gossip press, while in the real world Nami is curious why her manager isn’t nearby as he always is to assist her during this interview. During the interview it seems the lines between Nami’s reality and her movie fantasy have become incredibly blurry leaving us to wonder what in her life is this alleged movie and how much is actually real.

I have to say that this was an engaging film that Takashi Ishii has created that manages to extend far beyond simple exploitation. Not there isn’t plenty of exploitation to be had here as this had to be a pretty rough and challenging nine or ten weeks… or however long it took to shoot this movie, for Mai Kitajima. The poor woman gets tied up and bound and strapped while being mostly naked or wearing the latest in schoolgirl fetish-wear. To Ms. Kitajima’s benefit she brings much more to her character of Nami than her voluptuous figure as she gives her character a wide eyed naiveté along with a certain sense of unsettling insanity that continually bubbles underneath her surface.

The story that Ishii has written is hit or miss as it is more than interesting enough to keep the film flowing adequately, though it does have a slow spot or two which can be attributed to it’s somewhat oppressive length which at close to two hours is a long time for any type of exploitation flick. However if Ishii was attempting to write a mystery that keeps the audience in the dark or surprises us, he fell short there as it became obvious fairly early on in the proceedings what actually was going on in the movie, and in the character of Nami’s somewhat warped mind. There were also certain elements in the story which seemed to over complicate the plot for no particular reason than simply to over complicate things.

On the plus side this was a very cool, very slick movie to look at as Ishii has created some rather vivid images and he certainly takes full advantage of his stars physical abilities as she is photographed from head to toe amidst flawless lighting by someone who obviously appreciates the female form. And rope and torture and physical abuse and bondage.

While ‘The Brutal Hopelessness of Love’ has its narrative flaws it does manage to rise above the genre with it’s nice photography, a very good performance from its lead actress and a solid attempt to tell a semblance of a story in between watching Mai Kitajima walk around naked with various devices clamped to her nipples. Obviously it’s time to for a brother to backtrack and see what else Takashi Ishii has created because he obviously knows what he’s doing when it comes to this kind of thing.

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