Posted September 26, 2011 by Jack Jones in Films
 
 

Guilty Of Romance


Guilty of Romance is unfortunately a frightfully mundane film despite all of its ambitions to shock and provoke. Director Sion Sono may have established a reputation as a controversial filmmaker, yet his most recent feature is hardly as rousing or avant-garde as he believes it to be.

Guilty of
Romance
is unfortunately a frightfully mundane film despite
all of its ambitions to shock and provoke. Director Sion Sono may have
established a reputation as a controversial filmmaker, yet his most recent
feature is hardly as rousing or avant-garde as he believes it to be.

The film begins with an investigation into a mysteriously
dismembered body found in a red-light district. From there the film shifts
between the story of a puritanical wife, Izumi, who is devoted to waiting on
the every need of her cold husband, and the investigation. Izumi longs for a
more intimate relationship with her husband and begins to search for ways to
broaden her horizons. What follows is a full-blown odyssey of sexual
liberation.

Sono bases his film around the common conventions of sex and
murder that are so prevalent in the genre of sexual thrillers, but
disappointingly fails to offer anything new. Initially there is an endearing
tale of a repressed woman who desires the close comforts of the man she loves.
Unfortunately, when the film enters the stages of her sexual liberation, the
initiation of her liberation is based on a morally duplicitous scene that
corrupts the overall message of the film. While there is joy in observing
Izumi’s newfound sexual freedom, the act that opens the floodgates is
unequivocally immoral.

Izumi’s naivety leaves her exposed to an exploitative
modelling agency that is in fact a cheap pornographic company. After being
persuaded to ‘model’, Izumi is essentially forced against her will to have sex
with another man. This act of rape is the starting point for Izumi breaking the
shackles of repression, but what Guilty of Romance fails to
address is the inherent darkness of such a scene.

While the film undoubtedly attempts to celebrate female
sexual freedom and Sono is a self-confessed feminist filmmaker, the act of rape
is a destructive and non-celebratory matter. To have glossed over the issue in
such an ill-judged manner was a grave error as from that point forward there is
no sense of moral stature. Anything else that the film might have said is lost
on deaf ears.

As the film progresses, Izumi delves deeper into the dark
recesses of prostitution due to her growing addiction to sexual exploration. In
her quest she follows a poetry lecturer, Mitsuko, who
moonlights as a prostitute and is mentored in her beliefs that women can gain
power by demanding money from men in return for sex.

To say the film spirals out of control from here would be an
understatement. There are an array of strange sequences, with another instance
of sexual abuse that is terribly sexualised rather than abhorred, but there are
brief moments of comedy that briefly lift the spirits. What a shame it is that
these moments are all too fleeting. In some instances the film appears to
reference both Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and A Clockwork Orange, but despite the
appearance of a character in a droog-like outfit, that is where the comparisons
end. In fact, Kubrick’s genius was to expose the audience to brutal attacks and
make them revile the attackers. Sono however only manages to muddy the waters
when dealing with sensitive issues such as sexual assault.

In some respects Sono has yet to fulfil the promise he
showed with his independent horror film debut, Suicide Club. It’s almost as if Sono has come to
think of himself too much as an auteur, as opposed
to the brazen filmmaker he promised to be. Guilty of Romance is too
self-indulgent and ill-disciplined in comparison to his previously well-focused
films. Guilty of Romance is never sure-footed enough when
it comes to plot structure or, more precisely, which particular plot structure.

Some may accuse the film of perhaps being misogynistic, but
to credit the film with any sense of controversy or divisiveness is giving the
film credit it does not deserve. In the end, the film is too muddled
structurally and ill-disciplined to focus on what exactly it wants to say.
Sadly, for a film that looked to provoke reactions from its audience, it’s all
a bit boring.


Jack Jones