Waisetsu steeji nando mo tsukkonde, 2005
It’s a bit of shame that Daisuke Goto hasn’t gone on to greater mainstream success. For the past twenty years he’s been dabbling in and out of the pink film scene; he briefly interrupted his stint at the end of the 90s in trying to strengthen the Zero Woman and Sasori/Prisoner Scorpion franchises, but to very little fanfare. Upon returning to his niche field he’s received plenty of adoration for his work, which has seen him go on to win several awards throughout the present decade. The reason I lament this is because here’s a director who harbours a strong sense of compassion toward his subjects. His films might be laced with the same amounts of copious nudity seen in the majority of pink output, but his flawed characters and clear interest toward his homeland’s current climate have an undeniable weight to them. He comes across as a man who genuinely seems to have something say, who, if given the right tools and opportunities, could no doubt become a much stronger force within the Japanese film industry.
2005’s Blind Love follows the life of Kato Daisuke (Shota Kotaki): a struggling ventriloquist who, at odds with his own short demeanour, plays out desperate jokes with his dummy, much to his audiences’ bewilderment. However, he has managed to amass one fan. Her name is Hikari (Konatsu), a blind girl, who having fallen for Daisuke through his voice, advances him in the hopes of getting a date. But bad luck befalls Daisuke when Hikari mistakes his much taller assistant, Yoichi (Yota Kawase) for him. Knowing only the touch of Yoichi and the voice of Daisuke presents a major problem for the two men, who agree to both escort the young lady around town, Daisuke being a mere observer and conversationalist. But he finds it increasingly difficult to keep up the ruse as he watches his only friend in the business take advantage of the situation.
Two years after A Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn, Goto continues to explore familiar issues with a tightly-knit group of individuals who each suffer from certain personal inadequacies. Regardless of the disabilities or insecurities portrayed, the message here is succinct: that in life we are forced to make many important decisions, but we can also be so complacent as to continue going around in circles and not seize our opportunities. The characters here represent realistic human attributes, with Goto dispersing amongst them various states of emotional conflicts, such as selfishness, loneliness, and cowardice, which in turn presents some naturally empathetic themes. The director also shows a tad more cynicism this time around, as he imprisons his leads within an environment that demands more from them; traditional values are put into question as Daisuke struggles to keep a dying art form in the public eye, while in contrast Hikari’s young friend, Luna, casually gets by on servicing one-note businessmen. These disparate elements make for an interesting subject matter, taking their relevant place within the ever-changing face of society, but as admirable as Goto’s intentions might be there is a mixed air about his presentation.
Blind Love just doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. By handing us one of the most awkward love triangles we’re ever likely to see, it attempts to counter scenes of poignancy with moments of humour, only the latter is far less subtle; its generally pitiable, far-fetched and occasionally naïve nature making for some frankly questionable scenes. It’s almost impossible to buy into the notion of Hikari never realizing that Daisuke is always in her presence for the majority of time, as Yoichi takes her out for drinks and has sex with her later; while the general bumbling about on the part of Daisuke is often strange rather than infectious, leaving us with the feeling that what we have here is comedy introduced for the sake of it, rather than being a wholly organic product. And the same goes for the sex. An obvious given, it only serves as a detriment in that these lengthy encounters strip our central trio of some much-needed development time. Worse still is that one or two are quite ill-conceived and overstep the mark: an impromptu rape which is all too quickly skirted around for a happy ending of sorts leaves behind a somewhat bitter taste in heaping an unnecessary amount of pain upon a protagonist who has already gone through enough shit as it is. Despite some strong themes being examined, Goto can only achieve so much within the restrictions of what the genre affords, and unfortunately, while the film might look nice enough and the acting is certainly admirable, his narrative comes across a little more disjointed than with his earlier Lonely Cow…, struggling to maintain individual character arcs as they share moments with lesser-standing support characters.