Judge William Lee loves his Japanese machines—maybe a little too much.
The strange saga of Hiroshi the freeloading sex machine.
Take away the wild, slapstick sex scenes and Sex Machine, or Himo no Hiroshi, resembles a straightforward romantic comedy. Single mother Haruka (Rinako Hirasawa) meets good-natured Hiroshi (Mutsuo Yoshioka) one summer day and soon after he moves into her apartment. Haruka works at the post office. Her other suitors are Taro, her ex-boyfriend (and Yuichiro's father), and Anzai (Kazuhiro Sano), the local loan shark who has set up a nice racket in cricket fighting. Hiroshi doesn't have a job but he gets along well with Haruka's son. He's also tempted to stray by any female in town. As expected, there will be betrayals and other obstacles that threaten to break up the happy couple.
Hiroshi and Haruka have great chemistry together because they're both sex maniacs. They're quick to get it on with each other, a third party or solo without much provocation. Director Yuji Tajiri manages to stage several athletic and funny lovemaking scenes that keep up the momentum of the movie, even when the plot points aren't quite connecting. The simulated sex involves plenty of nudity and a few bodily fluid gags that would probably earn an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. However, the light comic mood keeps those scenes from being shocking or uncomfortable—even during one scene that brings a cucumber into the action.
A complication to the relationship concerns the cricket sumo wrestling that most of the town is obsessed with. The details are vague but Taro got into some trouble with the matches and Haruka owes money to Anzai. Now Hiroshi is training his own cricket for matches and he'll soon face Anzai. Apparently, their showdown will decide who wins Haruka but that's just one element of the story that doesn't completely make sense. It's an interesting story development but the cricket matches ultimately don't pay off dramatically.
Their personalities aren't fully developed but I enjoyed the short time spent with these characters. Even the bad guys aren't completely odious. Taro is a jerk but he wants to maintain contact with his son. Anzai is a con man but he's not very menacing. If the characters were fleshed out a bit more and the gaps in story logic addressed, Sex Machine could have worked as a full feature-length movie. At just over an hour, it's enough time for this lightweight material.
The letterboxed widescreen picture is slightly soft but the colors are quite natural and the lighting is balanced throughout. The cinematography makes good use of the small seaside town, which is a view of contemporary Japan that isn't often seen by North American audiences. The image appears clean most of the time but the reel changeover cue marks are still visible. The dialogue is strong and clear on the mono soundtrack.
Salvation Films has included a ten-minute short titled Blood as a bonus feature. Directed by Philip Ilson, his experimental film from 2000 is about a woman who wakes up covered in blood. In what might be a flashback, we see her bring another woman back to her place and kill her. The film deliberately looks and sounds ugly. Why Blood is paired with Sex Machine on this DVD is a mystery. Slit wrists and disembowelments are a mood killer for me, so I'm definitely not among the intended audience for this one.
Kudos to Yuji Tajiri and his attractive and fearless cast for putting a
healthy dose of sex and comedy into this lightweight summer romance. The
characters are likeable and the coital choreography is energetic. The story
isn't perfect but it's over before its faults become too noticeable. The
defendants are released to continue their bad behavior.
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