Auds looking for Tokyo-styled titillation may require regular stimulus from tattoo needles to stay awake during the moody meller “Snakes and Earrings.” There’s always a market for intense, S&M-themed Japanese drama, and this effort from respected theater director Yukio Ninagawa is better mounted than most, but its despairing atmosphere turns sex into a dull grind. Fest programmers looking for sushi-flavored “strange” will line up, and latenight auds and ancillary cultists will follow suit.
Thrill-seeker Lui (Yuriko Yoshitaka) is picked up by Ama (Kengo Kora), a punk with tattoos, studs and a forked tongue, at a Shibuya nightclub and immediately moves in with him. Ama introduces his latest squeeze to his bald, bone-pierced tattooist mentor Shiba (Arat), and Lui starts cheating on her b.f. so she can get free body decoration. Script’s moral tone disdains “alternative” lifestyles, and Ninagawa’s timid helming lacks the dynamism to capitalize on sexual themes. Yoshitaka looks to go beyond the call of duty for tongue-piercing scenes, but the alluring actress still lacks the chops to carry the role. Male leads posture almost comically, but Tatsuya Fujiwara’s cameo as a street thug is a fleeting delight.