At the Far East Film Festival 2023 there is a whole part dedicated to Master Ryūichi Hiroki, who returns to the Festival and proposes three films: we will talk about one in the review of You’ve Got a Friend, who wants to try to definitively undermine sadomasochism in the eyes of spectators.
Can sadomasochism be told through an extremely romantic story? According to the Master Ryuichi Hirokiamong the guests of the Far East Film Festival 2023, the answer is yes, as we will see in the review of You’ve Got A Friend, which takes its title from a song by James Taylor. On the other hand, sex (even perverse) and romance are not two opposite aspects of a love story, but rather they should be complementary to make it work better.
A BDSM movie
The one that Ryuichi Hiroki stages in You’ve Got a Friend it is an impossible love story, between a sadomasochistic mistress and one of her clients, one of the few hard-core sadomasochists, that is, who wants to suffer in all respects. Thus an interesting meta-cinematographic discourse is created between director-performer and mistress-slave, which as we know reverses the roles of control and security between the male and female genders. The most interesting aspect of the Maestro’s direction is the tact and delicacy with which he tells this story, especially in the more extreme scenes which to some might seem like a sort of free soft porn, when in reality it is anything but. The encounter of two people with their own bodies is brought to the screen in an engaging and touching way by the two protagonists, with a masterful use of space. They are all cages, physical or metaphorical, in which the characters are locked up, starting from the prisons of life that they have drawn and chosen for themselves. Especially since the protagonist has to face a past love in a truly original love triangle. Her ex mistress literally left him hanging and therefore he was never able to forget her completely. He is an ever-present ghost in their relationship, a constant presence that comes back to disturb the peace and “normality” that the new “couple” tries to build.
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A romantic movie
In the scenes of sexual act and of bdsm perversions the film gives its best but, as we said, for the opposite of what one might think: it manages to tell the union of two bodies and two souls and what they are capable of making explode when they are together. The close-ups, the details of the physiques and contortions of the two characters, the camera that accompanies them and accompanies us in this personal erotic discovery, give great power to the story. Perhaps the rhythm suffers a bit but it is precisely the dilation of narrative time that finds new strength. Just as he had told in his Tokyo Love Hotel, here too sex reigns supreme through various points of view: the director returns to this “hot” topic and tries to give a voice to all that category of enthusiasts of sexual perversions who otherwise it is only represented in crimes or in stories that see them as something to be set aside, and not to be placed at the center, as the Maestro chooses to do instead. For a love story, nonetheless. The film also undermines any possible prejudice: a sadomasochistic mistress can also be an excellent chef and good at household chores, because we must necessarily have the bias on the contrary?
A bored protagonist
The relationship of the protagonist with the women is also interesting female figures – flagship of You’ve Got a Friend – who gravitate around him: from his bedridden mother who has to reluctantly serve and revere (the same behavior he instead likes to implement in the bedroom) and his colleague madly in love with he apparently ready to do anything to please him… but sexual perversions aren’t for everyone. We also know the protagonist at a time in his life in which he desperately seeks new stimuli and above all finds himself bored by his sadomasochistic habits. The pursuit of pleasure, personal even before being a couple, is another apparently taboo topic (in 2023) that is explored in the film. Is the problem him? His new “relationship”? The ex mistress he can’t forget? Her becomes a path of sexual and above all personal awareness, of her own body and of her own needs that he thought he already knew by heart. How much do we really know about ourselves and our sexual tastes? It is one of the questions that the director asks himself and us spectators. You must never stop experimenting and trying, he tells us between the lines (and not too much). Let’s remember that. Always.
We talked about sex and romance in the You’ve Got a Friend review, often seen as opposites but actually complementary in a relationship. Master Ryūichi Hiroki takes us inside a particular love triangle that travels in the world of sadomasochism from both points of view, mistress and slave, and even if he exaggerates in the final part, he gives an engaging love story full of surprises.
Because we like it
- The interpretation of the protagonists and the characterization of the triangle in the center.
- The direction that captures the eyes and above all the bodies.
- Self-irony and speaking in a sincere and open way about sexuality.
- The film exaggerates and exasperates the narrative a bit in the final part, which seems to find no conclusion.
- Some might find the explicit scenes to be free soft porn (but that’s actually not the case).