Thursday, April 29, 2010

In short: Wet Hot Sake (1996)

Master Mononobe (Toshiya Fujita) owns a successful little sake bar that is quite well known for the quality of its warm sake. If you ignore his daughter Asami's wish to go to America (as Mononobe would rather like to do), the bar owner's life is a happy one.

Until, that is, the "gypsy bar" of Yumedono (Mamoru Watanabe) arrives in town. Yumedono is also known for the quality of his warm sake, and there's no way around it - his sake tastes much better than Mononobe's. Soon, Mononobe's bar is empty every night. Only the old man's favourite regular, the slightly shady Tsuneda (Yuya Miura), who also secretly sleeps with Asami, is still visiting.

Together, Tsuneda and Mononobe decide to find out what the secret of Yumedono's sake is. That's not as difficult as one would think. It turns out that Yumedono puts his wife/daughter into a watertight leotard, fills the leotard with sake and let's her do gymnastics to give the alcohol that womanly aroma men adore so much.

Mononobe tries to imitate his rival's methods, but they sound easier than they actually are. Only with the help of a sake oriented stripper and the inventor of sake stripping will his quest for the perfect warmed alcohol succeed.

After this description, you'll probably expect one of the sleazier examples of pink film, but Wet Hot Sake is neither very sleazy, nor in any way or form mean-spirited. The film turns out to be a weird, yet whimsical and melancholic little comedy with so little on-screen sex I'm not even sure it qualifies as a pinku.

Wet Hot Sake plays by the rules of cooking manga, with a bit more kinkiness, and a bit more interest in sex as part of the natural order of life than most of its manga colleagues show. And when you start to think about it (and lack a moral backbone, like I do), there's really not much of a difference between the glorification of well-tempered bread-baking hands and that of the special temperature and aroma a virginal female body gives alcohol. Well, except that the latter is even more insane, but Wet Hot Sake feels so low-key and pleasant that "insane" sounds like a very unfair word.

It's also a film with a moral, and - surprisingly enough - it's not "girls, stay virgins, so your dad can marry you and use you to warm sake", but "a woman is not a sake bottle", so that feminists with a sense of humour might get through it without cursing the male gender.

It's a very endearing little film.


No comments: