Sunday, August 9, 2009

Love - Infinity = Zero (1994)

aka Love - Zero = Infinity

An ex school teacher/TV writer (Takeshi Ito) has lost everything with the death or flight (the film is not clear about this, and Ito's character tells different stories to different people) of his girlfriend. He has drifted from the province to Tokyo and spends his days without any real human contact, just walking the streets. When he can't stand his feelings of disconnectedness anymore, he starts to become what he himself calls an "Observer of Unidentified Followed Objects", that is, he picks people at random and follows them, getting as close to being human again as seems possible for him.

One of this expeditions leads them to the scrap yard where two late teenagers spend their time, shooting up with each other's blood to somehow connect. Those two will in time start to follow him around.

One day, the man just collapses. After he gets out of hospital, with an HIV diagnosis to follow, one of the doctors who treated him contacts him on the street and asks him to follow his wife (Kiyomi Ito), a woman walking through Tokyo as aimlessly as the wanderer himself, dressed in black clothes, hiding behind black sunglasses. The doctor tells the wanderer that his wife (also a physician) has been treated with an experimental form of steroids to combat some heavy allergies, but that she has now become addicted to the stuff. He fears that the treatment has also disturbed her sanity and wants someone to watch over her. The wanderer has no problems with the job, in fact, he had already seen the woman and started to obsess about her and is glad to now have a reason for doing what he would have done anyway.

She soon realizes that someone is watching her, though, and the two deeply alienated people begin an obsessive relationship - or as close to a relationship as these two people can come by following each other and fucking.

He starts to suspects that she is the person who's going around Tokyo, killing people  and sucking their blood, but he's looking for death anyway.

Love - Infinity's director Hisayasu Sato is somewhat infamous for the intensity and violence of his pinku, but this one's not all that extreme in the ways of gore (there is none) and sex, instead it is extreme in an unrepentant and fascinated bleakness.

More than one scene here reminds of a specifically urban, Japanese brother of David Cronenberg, with the same interest in bodily and mental extremes and the same disinterest in judging them.

Sato's point of view is possibly even more clinical than Cronenberg's - he is showing what is happening without pre-loading it with any of the emotions we as viewers are supposed to have while watching, declining to make moral judgements for us. At the same time, Sato's style does everything to remind us that we are watching, not participating, distancing us so that a clear and clean identification with any of the characters becomes difficult, if not impossible. Of course, being unable to relate to others emotionally is also the problem the film's characters have, so one could argue that the distance leads in a strange way to a deep emphatic understanding of the characters.

Another part of the film's thematic reach is AIDS, or the way the illness transforms sex - if paid for the last possibility of connection for the emotionally unconnected - from a way to touch into another way to kill yourself. The film's characters would probably argue that killing yourself isn't such a bad thing to do if death leads you to a connection with someone or something.

And as if all this wouldn't be enough to make for an exceptionally bleak film, there's still Tokyo to ruin you. Here, Tokyo is not the gleaming, futuristic megalopolis, but the cold and shabby side streets that usually lie just on the other side of the gleaming, glamorous ones, a place where nobody ever looks anyone into the eye.


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