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Female

Modern womanhood and sexuality is sampled and celebrated in bountiful <I>bento </I>box "Female," a five-part meal of consistently satisfying flavors. Names of cult directors Shinya Tsukamoto and Ryuichi Hiroki will act as come-ons to those tantalized by the promise of erotic fare, though film's lack of visual explicitness will limit its international chances.

With:
Peaches With: Kyoko Hasegawa, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi.
Drive Until You See The Sun With: Chihiro Otsuka, Mitsuko Ishii, Hairi Katagiri.
Licking Nights With: Saka Takaoka.
Heels Of The Muse With: Nene Otsuka, Naoyuki Morita.
Jewel Beetle With: Eri Ishida, Ryo Kase, Kaoru Kobayashi.

Modern womanhood and sexuality — Japanese style — is sampled and celebrated in bountiful bento box “Female,” a five-part meal of consistently satisfying flavors. Names of cult directors Shinya Tsukamoto and Ryuichi Hiroki will act as come-ons to those tantalized by the promise of erotic fare, though film’s lack of visual explicitness will limit its international chances. Still, fests should definitely take a peek.

Pic begins with a rap-flavored dance number which, accentuating the fine forms of its female hoofers, looks like it was choreographed by Bob Fosse. This initial sequence — first of three dance interludes shot by Tadashi Aoki and choreographed by Mayumi Nobotsu — acts as an elaborate frontispiece, culminating with pic’s English title as a tattoo on the primary dancer’s shoulder.

Though all of the stories are directed by men, each seg is based on a short story by one of Japan’s most popular distaff writers. All are very different, some are better than others, but each will have its supporters.

“Peaches” stars Kyoko Hasegawa as a young woman who becomes reacquainted with a married peach farmer who lusted after her at high school. Drawing heavily on Hasegawa’s winsome charms and the sexual symbolism of the titular fruit, this opener provides pensive counterpoint to the erotic atmosphere of the dance preface.

Hiroki capitalizes on the popularity of his road movie “Vibrator” with “Drive Until You See the Sun,” the most indie-flavored of the set. Yarn throws together a punkish bar girl, a straight-laced female cabby and an aging but still flamboyant hostess in a knife-point car-jacking. With action mostly confined to the inside of a taxi heading for the beach, the three women bond together as literal and metaphorical fellow travelers.

Third episode, “Licking Nights,” by Matsuo Suzuki, is the most stylized, the story of a lovelorn woman who burns incense that causes vividly erotic dreams. Each location in the story is differentiated by its color scheme: Blue for her dull job, purple for sex, and B&W for a South Seas holiday.

The most blatantly erotic of the quintet, “Licking Nights” is also, occasionally, the funniest, its stylish conceit eventually paying off.

In contrast, “Heels of the Muse” is the most sentimental, and most universal — the tale of a 10-year-old boy obsessed by a friend’s alluring mother. A gentle contemplation of innocent lust, seg manages to push all the right buttons and is blessed with the film’s most unaffected perfs.

Final episode, “Jewel Beetle,” is most uncharacteristic of its quirky director, Tsukamoto (“Tetsuo,” “Snake in June”). It’s a gentle triangular romance, about a mistress who finds her mysterious old lover intends to bequeath her to a much younger colleague. The mistress’ status as a possession is symbolized by the titular beetle, but the story allows her more scope than that. Seg is not exactly a feminist treatise, but has an emotional tenderness rare in Tsukamoto’s movies.

Part of an ongoing Jam Films project which has been circulating at Asian fests for a couple of years, “Female” offers minimal nudity but plenty of dramatically satisfying erotica. Helming, lensing and performances are consistently well above the Japanese indie average.

Female

Japan

Production: A Micott & Basara Presentation Of A Jam Films Production, In Association With Sega, Amuse, Japan Digital Contents. (International Sales: Micott & Basara, Tokyo.) Produced By Shinya Kawai, Munchiro Umemura. Executive Producers, Umemura, Sumiji Miyake, Kazuhide Hamada, Koki Yabu. Reviewed At Puchon Fantastic Film Festival, South Korea, July 15, 2005. Running Time: 118 MIN.
Peaches (Momo): Camera (Color), Shogo Ueno; Music, Ryosuke Imai; Art Directors, Hidetaka Ozawa, Yuri Watanabe; Sound (DTS Stereo), Masaru Usui.
Drive Until You See The Sun (Taiyo No Mieru Basho Made): Camera (Color), Kazuhiro Suzuki; Music, Ryosuke Imai; Art Director, China Hayashi; Sound (DTS Stereo), Akira Fukada.
Jewel Beetle (Tamamushi): Directed, written by Shinya Tsukamoto, from an original story by Mariko Koike.
Licking Nights (Yoru No Shita): Directed, Written By Matsuo Suzuki, From An Original Story By Kei Yukawa.
Heels Of The Muse(Megami No Kakato): Directed, Written By Miwa Nishikawa, From An Original Story By Asa Nonami.

Crew: Peaches: Camera (Color), Shogo Ueno; Music, Ryosuke Imai; Art Directors, Hidetaka Ozawa, Yuri Watanabe; Sound (DTS Stereo), Masaru Usui.
Drive Until You See The Sun (Taiyo No Mieru Basho Made )Directed By Ryuichi Hiroki. Screenplay, Shotaro Oikawa, From An Original Story By Yuzuki Muroi. Camera (Color), Kazuhiro Suzuki; Music, Ryosuke Imai; Art Director, China Hayashi; Sound (DTS Stereo), Akira Fukada.
Licking Nights: Camera (Color), Toshiyasu Yamanaka; Music, Mayumi Kojima; Art Director, Aiko Toshimizu; Sound (DTS Stereo), Hiroshi Yamagata.
Heels Of The Muse: Camera (Color), Yutaka Yamazaki; Music, Cauliflowers; Production Designer, China Hayashi; Sound (DTS Stereo), Mitsugu Shiratori.
Jewel Beetle: Camera (color), Tsukamoto; music, Tadashi Ishikawa.

With: Peaches With: Kyoko Hasegawa, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi.
Drive Until You See The Sun With: Chihiro Otsuka, Mitsuko Ishii, Hairi Katagiri.
Licking Nights With: Saka Takaoka.
Heels Of The Muse With: Nene Otsuka, Naoyuki Morita.
Jewel Beetle With: Eri Ishida, Ryo Kase, Kaoru Kobayashi.

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