Home > Film, Reviews > Film Review: Guilty Of Romance – A Film By Sion Sono

Film Review: Guilty Of Romance – A Film By Sion Sono

 We, the voyeur, are lead through the shadowy pathways of consciousness.

Sex and death walk hand-in-hand through the dark corridors of the human psyche in Sion Sono’s latest picture, Guilty of Romance, a film about one woman’s sexual deprivation which leads her into the shadowy realms of an alternative reality which is both exciting and repulsive.

A gruesome murder has taken place in the red light district of Shibuya. The victim’s body has been savagely mutilated with her genitals disemboweled. The head and limbs of a mannequin have been attached to her torso and she is dressed in a sailor-style girl school uniform. Vibrant colours of pink, red and blue are splattered across the walls of the crime scene as Investigator Kazuko (Miki Mizuno) looks on dumbfounded.

(Photo courtesy of Eureka Entertainment)

Previously: Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka) is the prim wife of a successful romance novelist (Kanji Tsuda) whom, it appears, is as proper as they come. The physical love between the couple in this dull marriage is non-existent. Izumi, who is still in love with her husband, yearns for passion. One day she meets a woman by the name of Mitsuko (Makoto Togashi) who is a respectable University lecturer by day and a hot-blooded prostitute by night. Mitsuko soon becomes Izumi’s mentor taking her away from her humdrum life and introduces her to a world of sex, excitement, madness and danger where the price of sexual gratification comes at a hefty price. With a twist in the tale, it becomes apparent that Izumi is in some way connected to the horrific crime, but how? Is she victim or murderer?

(Photo courtesy of Eureka Entertainment)

Guilty of Passion is the third and final installment of Sono’s “Hate” trilogy; the other two being Love Exposure and the critically acclaimed Cold Fish. Although the three films are not a continuation of each other, thematically they are connected with sex, religion and family being interwoven within the narratives.

Nothing stimulates Sono’s imagination more than the darker reaches of humanity. A self confessed “hater”, Sono once confessed in an interview that the hate inside him is too strong, and that Guilty of Romance is “my concession speech towards love, because I was exhausted from hating.”

(Photo courtesy of Eureka Entertainment)

It can be said that Sono and the late great film director, Kenji Mizoguchi, share a common ground. Like Mizoguchi back in his day, Sono is a feminist filmmaker who is sensitive to the fragile mind-set of women, and understands the feelings of the ladies who “work the night”; a trade Mizoguchi new very well since he was a regular paying customer himself.

Guilty of Romance has an art-house feel to it. And true to Sono’s style, it is very dark and powerful with a strong use of colours including red, which is used to great effect as the colour of one of Izumi’s dresses, a candle and rug in the sleazy room where the murder takes place and as the colour of Mitsuko’s sensual lips. Pink and black are harmonized to represent both desire and darkness.

(Photo courtesy of Eureka Entertainment)

As can be expected from a Sono film, Guilty of Romance is packed with several grim scenes. But there are, however, welcome moments of light relief. Although, rather than being cleverly written, the humor is often juvenile with the sexual innuendos being blatantly obvious. One particular scene that has Izumi offering sausages to customers in the Supermarket where she works during the day is a case in point. It’s clear to see what the director’s intensions were, but they lack a sense of subtleness, subtlety being something that would have worked better and been more favorable. However, the dialogue spoken by Mitsuko’s mother, played by Hisako Ohkata, in the scene at the dinner table is shamefully amusing.

(Photo courtesy of Eureka Entertainment)

It’s worth noting that there are two versions of Guilty of Romance. The full length version runs at 143 minutes, whilst the edited version is approx 112 minutes long – this review is of the later.

Apparently, in the unedited version there are extra scenes of the murder investigation, which means actress Miki Mizuno is given added screen time and therefore, gives her character, Kazuko, more substance, whereas, in the shorter version, Kazuko appears to be less important to the plot than the characters Izumi and Mitsuko. The synopsis from the film’s press release states that Guilty of Romance is a “dramatic account of three women and their lives”. This may be an accurate description for the unedited version, but the condensed version focuses more on the character of Izumi, with Mitsuko being an imperative character to the narrative too. Sadly, the cuts made from some of the investigation sequences have affected the significance of the character of the female investigator quite considerably.

(Photo courtesy of Eureka Entertainment)

Consequently, the cuts that were made have caused the premise of the film to be focused more on the character of Izumi. Credit must be given to former gravure idol Megumi Kagurazaka for her role as the sexually deprived housewife who gets sucked into a world of prostitution and madness. It’s not uncommon for this type of idol in Japan to venture into the business of acting, but very few show such depth to a character and a capability of giving a strong performance. Kagurazawa’s “talents” as a model are clear to see during the many nude scenes which reveal her well-proportioned assets. But whether Kagurazawa’s acting skills are varied, is yet to be seen.

Equally convincing is Togashi as Izumi’s manic mentor Mitsuko. She plays the pitiful character with a subtle undertone of sadness. And as a viewer, one cannot help feel sympathy for her.

Sono’s disturbing film of sexual yearning may not be as enjoyable a feast as Cold Fish, but it is to some extent certainly more alluring, where we, the voyeur, are lead through the shadowy pathways of consciousness.

Overall, Guilty of Romance is an intense, gritty film that exemplifies Sono’s talents and signifies his style admirably.

Related Posts:

Press Release: “Guilty Of Romance”

DVD/Blu-ray Review:  Cold Fish 2-Disc Set

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Categories: Film, Reviews

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