Sexual sparks shimmer throughout “The Egoists,” a low-key but stirring lovers-on-the-run yarn that reps Nipponese helmer Ryuichi Hiroki’s return to the sensual, soul-baring explorations of narcissism and needinesss in his independent works (“Vibrator,” “It’s Only Talk,” “M”). Too hard-edged and slow-brewing compared with Hiroki’s demure romantic hits (“April Bride,” “The Lightning Tree”), the pic fizzled upon local release but has fest-play appeal.
To square up gambling debts, yakuza bit player Kazu (Kengo Kora, “M”) roughs up patrons at a girlie bar in Tokyo’s Kabukicho district, and runs off with pole-dancer Machiko (Anne Suzuki, a teen sweetheart-turned-bombshell). They shack up in Kazu’s hometown in Wakayama, where he is the pampered son of landed gentry. The pic’s Japanese title means “scorn,” and the protags encounter it everywhere, until their free spirits (expressed in joyous, liberating sex scenes) degenerate into ennui and self-loathing. Kora is fittingly volatile as an insecure brat, while Suzuki plumbs tremendous emotional depths as Machiko. Atsuhiro Nabeshima’s coolly desaturated HD lensing of urban sleaze lends lyrical bleakness to this tale of destructive, consuming passion.