Pornostar – Review
by Miguel Douglas on April 01, 2010
A man walks down a crowded street. He stands out from the rest, an outcast so to speak. From a single look at him, you can tell something just isn’t right. It appears to be he defies society; seemly walking past it like it doesn’t even matter. This is a man who is on his own; a rebel that has a cause, a man is taking matters into his own hands no matter what the cost is.
Contrary to the actual title of film, Pornostar is a relentless and tumultuous journey through the streets of Tokyo and its underworld. One of director Toshiaki Toyoda’s earlier films, Pornostar finds a man by the name Arano, who apparently comes out of nowhere and proceeds to wreak havoc amongst the Yakuza. He speaks very little and relies more on action that words to get his point across. He happens to run into a Yakuza clan who likes this particularly trait in him and they haphazardly recruit him into their roster. Things begin to escalate when they invite him along for a routine drug deal. Bad idea. Things become worse and the Yakuza clan starts to realize that Arano is one seriously disturbed man. Couple in the fact that Arano begins to slowly lost touch with reality, and you have a recipe for disaster.
This type of atmosphere makes Pornostar a telling tale of disaffected youth within Japan. Obviously, this is just considering one aspect of that dilemma—a dilemma that one could argue persists to some degree today—but it’s still important to consider given the circumstances surrounding what occurs within the film. Arano is an individual who really has no place within society, so he escapes by performing self-satisfying deeds that include the most damaging of actions—that of performing murder. Totally isolated, Arano can’t really operate on a normal level, and has become so absorbed into his own world that he doesn’t even recognize the ramifications of his outlandish behavior.
One of the better aspects of the film is Toyoda’s use of surrealistic images that convey what is going on in Arano’s head at the moment. His fixation with a certain weapon appears frequently within his imagination and Toyoda clearly shows that he is definitely going over the edge. From the outset of the film, Toyoda gives you little hints that this man is crazy to begin with, but Toyoda slowly pulls us along showing the viewer Arano’s descent into pure madness by the film’s end. This film is most certainly a character study of a dark and deeply disturbed individual—a character free of social norms and responsibility. Another aspect that stands out is the great use of music to provide certain scenes with a raw edge. The use of guitar riffs and other instruments compliment what is going on onscreen and really provide the backbone to some of the more visceral scenes within the film.
Considering this is one Toshiaki Toyoda’s earliest works, there are many aspects that one could notice that desperately need improvement. The story is sparse at best; neither the characters nor surroundings truly differ in nature. Most of the Yakuza members are your standard run-of-the-mill tough guys who do nothing but yell. The truly stand out character is our protagonist Arano, who is exceptionally portrayed by Koji Chihara. This guy has the look that conveys a sense that he could explode violently at any moment—and he most certainly does. He surprisingly stands up to Yakuza members, is not afraid to injure people in public, and stands firm against street bullies. He is the boiling pot that is ready to overflow at a moments notice.
So is Pornostar a good film? A certainly believe so. This film is more of a visual experience rather than a narrative one (quite the opposite compared to Toyoda’s later films). While not the greatest character study I’ve seen regarding a youth descending into madness, it does a great job showcasing what a person might and will do in order to make things right in their mind. This of course means forcibly removing obstacles in their way that they deem not useful. This film is but a taste of what Toshiaki Toyoda would bring forth rather successfully in his later films, but Pornostar stands as a good entry towards understanding what Toyoda has to offer as a distinctive director within Japan.