Film Review: Underwater Love
Some people will wonder what they have let themselves in for!
Underwater Love, directed by Shinji Imaoka is a rare film. It’s a soft-core porn musical, which raised eyebrows not only in the description but with the trailer. The reason why it has been so anticipated (apart from the breasts!) is because of the fine talent that worked on it, from the award-winning cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero and countless Wong Kar-wai films) to world renowned French musical duo Stereo Total.
It’s an uplifting tale of love, romance and sacrifice which tells us we are never too old to live our life how we want to. The porn element of the film is used sparingly and the scenes are fairly timid and not very explicit, apart from one gloriously funny scene involving turtle fellatio! Scenes like that one, which will leave you with a smile on your face, are littered throughout Imaoka’s film and more than make up for the stranger elements of the film’s narrative.
The story is about a woman called Asuka (Masaki Sawa) who is working in a fish factory and is about to be married to her boss, Hajime. One day by chance Asuka encounters a Kappa (a half-man half-turtle water sprite from Japanese folklore) and learns that the Kappa is the reincarnation of an old school mate, Aoki (Umezawa Yoshihiro), who drowned when he were 17. Asuka takes Aoki home with her and puts him in the bath tub. Their relationship blossoms and leads to jealousy from Hajime who makes Asuka choose between him and the Kappa. This brings us to the God of Death, another crazy character who informs Aoki that Asuka has only one day to live. Aoki tries everything he can to save Asuka including running up a mountain and using the ‘anal pearl’ to stop the God of Death.
Masaki Sawa is convincing as Asuka, a woman who feels that she has reached an age where she should be settling down but still has a youthful, fun side of her which she can’t help but show at times. She longs for romance, something that is lacking in her relationship with Hajime and is effectively shown in the sex scenes between the couple. We are genuinely sympathetic with Asuka and want her to thwart the God of Death and live happily ever after. The rest of the cast do their jobs well and let the images and relationship between Aoki and Asuka pull the story in the right direction.
While the film is, as expected, beautifully shot it’s not the only reason to watch. There are catchy, toe-tapping pop tunes and some of the worst, but somehow fun dancing you will have the pleasure of experiencing and will stick in your head long after the film has finished. Although this film will not be for everyone, it’s typically Japanese – some people will wonder what they have let themselves in for. But for the rest of us, behind the porn/musical tag there is an affecting love story which is simple that everyone can relate to whether it’s told with man and woman or turtle and woman.
Review written by Dean Hilliam.
Released on DVD by Third Window Films on 21st November 2011.