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Love Hotel by Phil Cox and Hikaru Toda - UK PREMIERE 17/09/14
Saturday 13 September 2014, by
Love hotels are short-stay hotels providing couples-husband and wife/client and prostitute/singleton and friend-with an intimate setting to explore all matters of sexual activities and fantasies. The scale of comfort and quality stretches from utilitarian sleep boxes to personal quirky, thematic amusement arcades equipped with fancy lighting, disco balls and karaoke machines. Although love hotels appear all over the world, their history in Japan goes back around four centuries.
Love Hotel is a portrait of The Angelo, one of 37,000 love hotels in Japan. And like most of them, it is facing closure following a recent governmental crackdown.
Love Hotel is a surprisingly intimate glimpse into The Angelo’s clients’ wildly varying uses of the premises. One married man dangles from the ceiling in full bondage gear with a rope tied round his penis while a hired dominatrix pours all sorts of condiments on him. An elderly couple rekindle their love by way of a karaoke machine. A single woman fills the gaps between longer term relationships. Two gay professionals seeks a safe retreat as they struggle to keep their relationship under raps (although what might become of the relationship once the film is screened is anyone’s guess...).
One of the strengths of the film is the way in which the filmmakers avoid patronising and ridiculing the guests, so that the stories they share are given weight and scope to touch and move viewers, instead of simply inspiring giggles and raised eyebrows.
Another strength lies in the way in which Love Hotel conveys a real sense of how important these places are to their guests. They provide a safe environment for them to relax, experiment, reflect, or have fun. However, one gets a sense that some scenes feel just too contrived and intimate and so appear to be constructed and manipulated.
Another criticism I would level at the film is that the political context is never really discussed. Why exactly is there a crackdown? Who has ordered it? What’s the timeline? An allusion to an increasingly conservative government trying to shift attention away from economic crises is all that is offered.
On the whole, though, the filmmakers manage to convey the charm and quirkiness of these hotels, driving us to care about their current fate.
The film will be screened with DocHouse at the ICA in London.
Love Hotel - UK PREMIERE + Q&A with Directors Phil Cox and Hikaru Toda
Dir. Phil Cox and Hikaru Toda
UK / France / Austria - 2014 - 80 mins
Wednesday 17th September, 2014 at 8:00pm