From the pen of Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls, Memories Of Matsuko) comes a comic look at the Japanese porn industry…
Expanding on a mispronunciation of an American tourist’s observation that Tokyo sure has a ‘lot of people’, Lala Pipo is essentially a series of overlapping vignettes, with Tetsuya Nakashima’s story weaving through a seedier side to Tokyo life. There’s Hiroshi, a disheveled loner desperate for a girlfriend, but too revolted in himself to get close to anyone other than his penis (played by a muppet, it’s the only persons he has conversations with!); shop assistant Tomoko who unintentionally finds her way into the porn industry, thanks to charming talent scout; Koichi, who imagines himself as porno Power Ranger Captain Bonita; and Sayuri, an overweight young woman whose aspiration is to be an Anime voiceover artist, and whose ambition has already seen her cater to a niche market in the porn industry.
Debut director Masayuki Miyano does a fair job of bringing Nakashima script to life in a way that would do him proud. It’s full of the same sort of japanese cultural and pop imagery, though somewhat less dense in it’s bombardment of those references than Nakashima would be, it quickly runs out of steam from the end of the opening sequence on.
With similar themes explored elsewhere in Tetsuya Nakashima’s work (not to mention plenty of other Japanese films) – of isolation and loneliness, and desire to end that leading to sexual exploitation or dominance of one kind or another – the brevity by which we explore each character leads to a real lack of depth in the film. Not that it doesn’t in turn keep the film light and upbeat, but it also means it lacks the emotion connection Nakashima makes in his own films.
Indeed, it brings up comparison with Tsai Ming-liang’s The Wayward Cloud, which managed to keep the more cringe worthy moments yet still make it’s characters a little more real.
It’s notable that the most seemingly pathetic character when we meet her first, Sayuri, who is looked down on by even Hiroshi, is actually the happiest and most successful on her own terms. Again Nakashima’s comment here seems clear – a solitary existence isn’t the end of the world, it’s more how you feel about yourself.
Though Lala Pipo is arguably a little light on its subject, it’s neither as explicit as perhaps it ought to be nor as honest about the consequences, it’s a likable comedy that should help build on Nakashima’s reputation for great modern storytelling, and it’s no bad debut for Miyano either.
Home media details
Distributor:Third Window Films (UK)
Good transfer of the picture and audio, with a smattering of special features including a "Making of" featurette, interviews with cast and crew and the original trailer.