From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Looking at the title and poster art, Love Hotel may seem like just another late roman porno film by the Nikkatsu Studios. That, however, could hardly be further from the truth. The talent involved in this production alone should be a enough to make Love Hotel one of the most interesting films from Nikkatsu’s roman porno era. And, one of the best, too.
Love Hotel was directed by master filmmaker Shinji Somai. It’s not rare that talented directors begin their career in the pink genre before breaking through to mainstream cinema. Somai, however, had already established his position as one of the most acclaimed Japanese directors of the 80’s. In 1985 he surprised the audiences with his one film Nikkatsu collaboration. To make matters more puzzling, Love Hotel was released only four weeks prior to Taifu Club, Somai’s crowning achievement and a landmark in Japanese cinema.
The explanation for Somai’s sudden roman porno dive is found in the production credits. While Nikkatsu indeed took care of the distribution Love Hotel was actually produced by The Director’s Company. It got tagged as Nikkatsu Meisaku Roman film afterwards, but it didn’t begin as their original production nor was it based on one of those 3 page screenplays Nikkatsu were notorious for. The storyline was crafted by the acclaimed manga artist Takashi Ishii, who later used the same storyline, although in heavily altered form, in his directorial debut; Angel Guts – Red Vertigo (1988).
Love Hotel begins with the downfall of Tetsuro Muraki (Minori Terada). His company goes bankrupt and he fails to pay back the money he owes to the yakuza. Not being able to get money out of him the loansharks rape his wife in front of him. The desparate Muraki plans to end his life in a Love Hotel after sex with a prostitute but finds himself too weak. The film continues two years later. Murakami has divorced from his wife in order to protect her from the debt, and become a taxi driver. One day he meets Nami (Noriko Hayami), a woman he believes might understand him due to being in a similar situation.
The first 10 minutes of Love Hotel is as graphic as any exploitation film. But that’s only the introduction. The remaining 79 minutes play purely for story and characters. The film never goes back to the yakuza themes again, and the amount of sex scenes is lower than what Nikkatsu’s own roman porno guidebook would require. In fact, appart from the beginning and occasional Eirin censorship here and there the film would be hard to associate with the pink genre if it wasn’t for the Nikkatsu logo in the opening and closing credits.
Still, there is a reason why Nikkatsu acquired the film. Compared to the director’s earlier work Love Hotel is definitely a griettier and more sexually explicit film. That, however, does not equal to decreased quality. Fans of Somai will recognize his touch easily. The long takes, stylish use of music (with Momoe Yamaguchi’s Yoru he playing during the pier scene) and deep focus on characters are all here. The cast is pretty good with very decent performances from both leads. The brilliant cinematography is courtesy of Noboru Shinoda, a frequent future collaborator of Shunji Iwai.
Reportedly Somai shot the film in 10 days, but the rush doesn’t show. The film features several terrific sequences but also holds up as a whole. There’s maybe a little bit of melodrama but that was also the case with Gyoei no mure (1983). The ending is excellent and beautiful – as you’d expect from Somai. In Nikkatsu’s roman porno catalogue Love Hotel is somewhat an oddity; an exploitation release that is almost not exploitation at all. Nevertheless, or perhaps for that very reason, it was awarded as Nikkatsu’s best film of the year.
Reviewed by HungFist