Kabukicho Love Hotel benefits from format and ambience, but lacks the stories necessary for the grand hotel movie formula to work.
Kabukicho Love Hotel (さよなら歌舞伎町) Synopsis
Nondescript Atlas Hotel is not just one of many love hotels in Tokyo’s most famous red-light district, it is also the stage for numerous secrets and deceptions.
- Toru: A despondent manager who lied to his family about his job, and who dreams of working in a 5-star establishment.
- Mena: A Korean call girl on her last day of work, and secrets.
- Suzuki: The hotel’s chambermaid who has waited years for a secret to expire.
- Hinako: A runaway who finds solace in a pimp.
I didn’t realise it till last year. I adore the grand hotel movie formula and that’s all due to binging on TVB’s Hotel drama series in the 80s.
Oh, all those hours of watching unrelated lives and experiences swirl together, with a stage as colourful as the individual themselves! On that, you do agree that the grand hotel storytelling formula is a splendid platform for the exploration of all sorts of human experiences? Particularly those best examined as snippets, or vignettes, instead of protracted tales?
Not to mention, the entire format is also a superior showcase for acting and directorial talents, especially ensemble assemblies.
As far as talents are concerned, I’d say that director Hiroki Ryūichi impresses here with his, what’s the word, amalgamation of seemingly unrelated stories, as well as the insightful glimpses into the operations of a typical love hotel in Tokyo. The cast delivers reasonable performances too with whatever screen time they are given. This is especially so for Lee Na-ra’s hardboiled but still resiliently positive Korean call girl.
The stories, on the other hand, are as fleeting as a tryst with a weird stranger in any such establishment. As juicy as all of them are, none are adequately explored or ended. Rather trudging towards the end, there’s also a sensation of hasty wrap-ups. The teenage runaway story is markedly guilty of this.
One other thing, and please don’t consider me a prude for complaining about this. As if to befit the venue of the movie, there are some rather graphic sex scenes. With Hiroki Ryūichi an established name in the Japanese Pink Film industry, I suppose these might have been obligatory or expected.
Still, those sequences barely add to the development of the characters. At some points, it also felt as if the “documentary” slant of the bridging scenes had gleefully strayed into the pornographic. I have to say, I was rather turned off by it all. No pun intended.
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