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Yariman
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by Jay Seaver

"A skin flick you can watch with your girlfriend!"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There was a story passed around this summer about how adult film actors were disappointed that the current trends in the industry was leading to their films being stripped down to their most base essentials, without even the pretense of plot to string the sex scenes together. Most of the time, the reaction has been mockery - what did they expect? The answer, likely, is something like "Yariman" - a movie that delivers the expected skin but also gives its cast a little room to act and elicit emotions other than arousal.

Arousal doesn't take a back seat, of course; the movie starts with Lemon Hazawa topless, as her character Miki is having a quickie with her boyfriend Ken (Yuichi Ishikawa) before work. Ken's eyes are starting to wander, though, and today they wander in an unexpected direction - that of an old girlfriend, Yoshiko (Yukari Sanada). This leads to more than just eye contact, of course, and a little post-coital weirdness. The chance to either get past that or put it behind them never comes, though, as Yoshiko is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Since Yoshiko had no family, Ken takes the responsibility of finding her family's grave-site and bringing her ashes there - with Miki along to help, no matter how awkward that is.

This is a "pink" film, so there will be other partners for both Ken and Miki, enough to fit five or six sex scenes into the film's sixty-five minutes. The cast is likable and attractive, with a variety of body types, and director Rei Sakamoto makes them getting it on reasonably arousing even when the movie's story is more filled with melancholy and regret than raw hedonism. The sex stays within the bounds of softcore - plenty of bare breasts, but relatively discrete camera angles; no engorged organs or on-screen penetration. It does the job well enough, although those looking for wall-to-wall titillation with nothing left to the imagination would be well-advised to look elsewhere.

The story, by Futoshi Nakano, is a mixed bag. It occasionally seems stretched in order to insert one or two more sex scenes, but at the center is an emotional story about two young people figuring out what they want from a relationship and how committed they are. Ken and Miki spend time talking about their relationships with each other and other people, and have some time to ponder Yoshiko's life and reputation. It's not tremendously deep - these films are short, and a certain amount of their running time is taken up by other things - but there's food for thought. Sakamoto directs with a very sure hand, overcoming the tiny budget to create a film that has emotional resonance, and is even genuinely uplifting when it reaches its end.

Of course, the cast is only so-so; if these guys could give great performances (other than in bed), they probably wouldn't be doing pink films. Their fully capable of giving adequate performances, though, and the main characters do fairly well: Yuichi Ishikawa can brood. Yukari Sanada makes Yoshiko believably shy and embarrassed around Ken, in a way that holds up when we learn more about her life. Lemon Hazawa makes Miki smart and responsible, someone who enjoys sex without being ashamed of it, though not aggressive about the matter. The supporting characters are all fairly solid performers, enough to make me wonder whether it may be easier for character actors to move between pinks and the mainstream as the work is available, even as the stars have hit their ceiling.

I can't say how well this compares with other modern pink films; I've only seen the older pictures in this series and "The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai",. which is something else altogether. It's not just a good compromise between relationship drama and soft-core, but a passable drama that acknowledges that, yes, sex is a part of a relationship.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=19361&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/05/09 08:53:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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