I read about this one a few months ago, so when I saw third window films had popped a DVD release out, it was on it’s way to my doormat before you could say “amazon.co.uk checkout”. Because low budget single room comedies about the Japanese AV industry are always going to be an automatic win right? Maybe you need to read on to find out?
“Makeup Room” is set on location behind the scenes of a fictional Japanese AV shoot. For those not in the know, AV is short for “Adult Video”, basically a nice way of saying porn. And this is fairly low budget, seat of the pants produced porn. Seasoned makeup artist Tsuzuki (Aki Morita) is at the centre of events, not only doing her job under testing conditions, but having to deal with a somewhat various gaggle of actresses. We meet Masami (Beni Ito), a jaded and seasoned pro; Toshiko (Nanami Kawakami), a shy girl on her first job; Sugar (Mariko Sumiyoshi), a jobbing low end girl; and Masako (Riri Kuribayoshi), a genuine nymphomaniac, who is the only girl doing it for the sex alone. We follow the interactions that go on behind the scenes, with no little comedy and get a view for just how these movies are put together.
For those of you looking for a real porn film – look elsewhere. Whilst director Kei Morikawa does come from this field (and is based on a play he wrote about his experiences), and most of the actresses (excluding Aki Morita) are real world AV performers, this isn’t particularly titillating. There are a few boobies on display, and some fairly frank verbal exchanges about sex acts, its BBFC rating of 18 seems a little extreme.
This is a low budget production, set in a single room, occasionally beset by issues of low light. This isn’t a problem, giving a further sense of authenticity. It is never laugh out loud funny (well maybe once when one actress suggests she looks like a camel), but offers a consistent stream of chuckles and smart observations, with Masako’s desperate desire to get an girl on girl scene with Masami being a fun repeated joke, and Toshiko’s sudden growth from almost unbearably shy to overly enthusiastic might be a little predictable, but is huge fun.
Whilst Aki Morita is clearly the only dramatic actress on display, the AV girls actually do really well, and the only bum notes are the male leads who are a little too amateur and a little distracting. It is probably helped by the fact they are acting out experiences that are probably quite everyday for them.
It’s not without heart too, with each of the girls having time to explore their character’s motivations, and the eventual revelation of Masami’s prima-donna behaviour being a mask for the difficulties of being a well know AV starlet being especially touching.
Low budget and some technical issues aside, the film’s only real fault is that it is possibly too positive towards the AV industry. Whilst it is refreshing to see people being positive about their work, showing us all sorts of personalities and motivations, one can’t help feel that the darker side isn’t given much of the spotlight. The manipulation, abuse and psychological issues that befall many of the real-world stars isn’t mentions, nor are the quite misogynistic and violent aspects of Japanese pornography explored in any way (this is a cultural thing I suppose, and only worrying towards an outsider).
However, it is a lot of fun, and if you can handle the subject matter, and deal wth the fact this isn’t a supremely polished production? I personally think this is a lot of fun and work 86 minutes of your time. Recommend. Oh, and there is a sequel on the way.. which I am on the fence about. But I will watch it for sure. And also watch with interest to see if writing about Japanese Porn is going to get me a bunch of extra hits!