It’s not often that documentary filmmakers manage to capture their subject matter in an unobtrusive, fly-on-the-wall style manner. It’s even rarer for the filmmaker to achieve this while talking about sex, baby, and to show some explicit scenes of the deed without it all turning into sleazy voyeurism. But Love Hotel manages to achieve all this and more with its quirky ode to a Japanese phenomenon.
In Japan, public displays of affection are rare and the culture is one that is rather conservative and repressed. It is in this environment (plus one where long work hours are the norm and apartments are tiny, which makes sex at home difficult) that places like the Love Hotel thrive.
There are 37,000 of these establishments in Japan attracting 2.4 million people a day. These pay-by-the-hour guesthouses started in medieval times, but these days they welcome all and sundry. It could be people seeking out escape or anonymity; or a place for quiet or play; an avenue to act out fantasy; somewhere to express love or lust; or even the opportunity for some mindless self-indulgence and more.
Welcome to The Angel Love Hotel where the slogan could be- come one, come all. Here, filmmakers, Philip Cox and Hikaru Toda follow the eccentric hotel management and staff as well as the more interesting group of paying customers. We have a married couple wanting to reignite their sex lives, a lonely 71-year old man who watches porn with a sense of nostalgia, a young couple having an affair and a dominatrix with one of her fetish customers.
Of all the participants, the two most interesting groups of customers would have to be the divorced couple who meet once a week to reminisce and dance and the two gay lawyers. In the case of the latter couple, this is one of the few places that they can express their homosexual love and desire in a safe place.
This film is ultimately a revealing and intimate look at the public and private lives of these people. It is also an honest and sophisticated confessional by some everyday people that is sweet, fascinating and looks poised to breakdown a few barriers surrounding these mysterious establishments. As the Japanese government becomes more conservative and passes more draconian laws (a storyline that is explored in this film) this documentary could also serve as one final reminder of a cultural phenomenon that once was…
Originally published on 29 August 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/08/29/film-review-love-hotel-uk-france-japan-2014/
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