When I saw the first Flower and Snake film, I became impressed with the lengths Aya Sugimoto, a popular pop star/model would go to make that film. Despite its multiple scenes of sexual intercourse and nudity, it did not wallow at all in the graphic eroticism. It was a tale of sexual desire, misplaced sense of loyalty and just how sometimes, even when something turns us off, one adjusts to whatever is their situation at the time. It was a sexual awakening if you will, something that is totally unexpected; a sexual nightmare come alive. After being impressed with the first movie, I felt that I had to see the sequel, Flower and Snake 2: Paris. Its themes of awakened sexual desire and uninhibited eroticism remains alive, if having a little bit more of a heart. This sequel has nothing to do with the plot of the first film.
The story revolves around Shizuko (Aya Sugimoto, Burrado) and her husband, Toyama Takayoshi (Jo Shishido) who is twice her age. Her husband oftentimes cannot perform in bed, thus, develops an insecurity. He seems to get his gratification in watching Shizuko in erotic pictures/situations, and believes that since he cannot provide her sexual needs, he'd rather watch her have sex with different partners, both in bondage pictures and actual situations. The twists and turns begin when a painter gets involved in their lives. The beautiful Shizuko soon finds herself a willing participant in fulfilling not just her husband's fantasies but the sexual fantasies of a slew of rich men.
This movie is a tale of love, insecurity and how someone could stand to give up on something just so their partner can reach a form of happiness. As erotic and titillating as the film really is, it has a heart and a touch of tenderness around its themes. The film had established that Takayoshi and Shizuko are indeed in love. Shizuko likes being watched and is someone who can be called a masochist while Takayoshi is someone who gets off watching his wife have things done to her. It is a twisted relationship for sure, and certainly something that cannot be declared as normal. Yet, the film makes a convincing declaration that such a love can sometimes exist, thanks to its strong performances and bold direction. It is a form of conflicted love that cannot be understood, yet, one cannot argue that such a thing cannot exist.
Aya Sugimoto is still stunning, she's in her late 30's during the film’s filming, but she still managed to keep her nice slim figure. She is quite an actress to be able to pull off this role and she certainly pushed the limits of pink films. I saw the Deleted/Making of scenes, it shows her being shocked at times with herself in the long sex scene in the film. The deleted/making of features are very good. Aya Sugimoto shows she is tough and fearless, and maybe even better than in the first movie. She defined the film and certainly became the reason why the film did not end up like a sleazy flick. Jo Shisido does well as the secondary character. He brings a feeling of grief and yet some form of twisted release. There is also some subtle religious symbolism present in the film and some weird applications of metaphors that can give one something to think about.
This film is superior to the first film in heart, but the first one pushes your buttons more as the plot in the original is arguably a lot bolder and depraved. This sequel is much more about love, mixed up with weird desire. Yes, it can be argued that the sex scenes in the first film were more intense, but the sex scenes in this film can be said to be more arousing. I guess it is because the film had a strong element of shock value, this first sequel was already established just what its premise would be and calls on a voyeuristic side. This film does go far, but it was a little predictable despite its strong climax. A good film by Takashi Ishii, as its many layers it also makes the viewer ask themselves just why they are watching this film; not many directors can do such a thing, but Ishii certainly got that point across.
The Dvd from Tokyo shock is pretty good. The film I believe was intentionally shot to look a bit grainy and murky, to give the audience a certain feel of a painting. Ishii intentionally shot the film to be in the strong voyeuristic side, as if the viewer is in the middle of the action. It is almost as if Ishii is saying that the viewer is just as guilty as those who play the part of the watcher. It is a harrowing piece of erotic filmmaking. While not perfect, it is just as interesting as the original. The deleted scenes were shot in regular camera and didn't appear murky surprisingly.
Recommended to fans of Japanese Arthouse Pink movies, and those who could appreciate such a thematic erotic affair would be pleased. This is not just a film about S & M, while very sexy as it pushes the envelope, it was able to find a soul and a heart. It also allows one to ask the question: “when can enough is enough” be declared? [3 ½ Out of 5 stars]
This review had been expanded from the review in amazon.com, posted in January, 2007.