The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Man, Woman And the Wall

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Man, Woman And The Wall

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Just when you thought it would be intellectually stimulating to view a subtitled cinematic offering, leaving the jaded, sometimes formulaic sensibility of Hollywood or even the U.S. behind, here comes a slice of Japanese soft core porn masquerading as a serious film about voyeurism.

Ryo’s (Keita Ono) greatest achievement in life is getting an apartment with a bathtub. That is, until he discovers the paper-thin wall that separates his space from Satsuki’s (Sola Aoi /Sho Nishino) a female neighbor. He can hear conversations, moans, phone calls, sexual activity. Not that he’s listening.

As SNL’s Church Lady would say, “How conveeenient!” While Ryo luxuriates in his tub, Satsuki is shown rubbing and soaping herself up suggestively in a shower for maximum exploitation and skin exposure. Ryo sits in opaque water up to his neck, but his neighbor must put on a lathery striptease in his imagination and for the camera. Ryo soon lives with his ear pressed to the thin wall, an activity that becomes the anticipated end to each day. He imagines a pink, kitsch apartment and what his neighbor must look like, of course tarted up and seductive. He roots through her discarded trash and finds her toenail clippings. He watches her pass by his door’s peephole. Several shots show Satsuki undressing to full nudity in Ryo’s mind.

Satsuki receives crank calls in which a childish voice repeats, “I want to screw you.” Unnerved, she summons boyfriend Yuta (Hiroto Kato) to come over, usually ending in a sexual encounter shared vicariously by Ryo and his right hand from the other side of the wall.

Since Satsuki has both a full-time and a part-time job, she has little time to spend in her apartment and all of it is monitored by Ryo, first by ear, then by listening devices that enhance sound. The message this sends about men is not flattering at all. Quiet complacency about this, or even a nudge-wink boys-will-be-boys attitude implies a complicity in the viewer that is truly insulting.

Lingering, sex-filled shots exploit Satsuki through episodes of oral sex and sexual position variation, much too prolonged and voyeuristic for a serious piece of cinema to attempt and retain any type of dignity.

Ryo spies Satsuki on a balcony with Yuta, having sex of course. He masturbates. After some sleuthing that takes on more and more of a stalking nature, he finds her at her part-time job at a restaurant and contrives all kinds of chance meetings with her. His behavior becomes increasingly obsessive, tracking her movements on a chart – noting when a crank call happens, when Yuta arrives, when they have sex, when she bathes. With the help of surveillance equipment, he listens to her eat - actually masticate is a better word. The camera lingers on her mouth and the sound accentuates the sticky way saliva and food mix as she chews. Luckily, Satsuki doesn’t know it, but the viewer is privy to everything, making us complicit in her rape of sorts.

The close scrutiny continues and unveils secrets that change everyone’s situation. One of Ryo’s friends is a professional debugger (again, how convenient) and assists him in installing a camera feed in her apartment. Ryo must inhale her underwear before he leaves. He also discovers that someone’s already rigged Satsuki’s apartment for video, which leads to a confrontation with a surprising red herring. Ryo, Satsuki’s and Yuta’s lives change in unexpected ways.

Although it has a compelling story, the film is an excuse for a sex romp featuring total male gratification and female objectification. Although psychologically intriguing, it takes the low road and lands in disappointing gutter territory. For example, the very last scene features Satsuki walking in on Ryo as he masturbates. In response, she must undress to full frontal nudity (he does not). How ironic that a climax could be so very anti-climactic. There must even be a fantasy Satsuki to achieve penis satiety above all else. Interesting potential character studies are shelved in favor of the cheap thrill.

Director Masashi Yamamoto has a breast/bra fetish, and either dislikes women, or likes them very much in a seventh-grade kind of way.

Sola Aoi and Sho Nishino, the two Satsukis, exist to please men – one is playing an actual fantasy and so serves no other purpose. The other is supposed to be a real woman but is not much different from her frothy counterpart in sensibility. Keita Ono is an eager participant as the perverted, nosy neighbor who covets the action on the other side of the wall. Hiroto Kato must show a range in Yuta that in another film would be admirable, but here is merely par for the soft porn course.

There is a place for such cinema, in the 21+ section of a DVD rental establishment. The casual objectification of the female is expected there. Man Woman and the Wall could have been a fascinating psychological study of human behavior without lowering the bar to include graphic sex scenes that exploit no one but the female lead. Instead, it slides into handy nude scenes and sensational masturbatory shots just because it can. How disappointing, but even more unsettling, how typical.

(in Japanese, with English subtitles)