I’ll dabble with the occasional Pink/Pinku film here and there, and this one – SECRETS OF A DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE – popped onto my radar by way of another online critic who suggested it. For all of its 72 minutes, it’s mostly very tame by comparison to other films exploring similar themes and/or dalliances of this sort, but, to its credit, it does try to say something about the world these characters occupy. Too bad it wasn’t all that interesting and/or relevant, but, at the very least, I give it credit for trying.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
SECRETS OF A DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE opens with an image of a man and a woman sitting on what would appear to be a sheltered park bench with the man holding the reins of the rope being used to keep the woman in bondage. The image sparks several ideas – ownership, domination, transition, openness – but it’s gone about as quick as it’s revealed. Then the film cuts to the lone woman – Sonoe (played with curious restraint – no pun intended – by Anri Suzuki) – lying alone in a rather plush-looking bed. Accompanied by some haunting piano music that hints of her loneliness or isolation, she walks downstairs where she finds her husband, Seiji Nakahara (Zenkichi Yoneyama), sulking awake. He can’t sleep – he’s worried about his business – and then the two part and go on their way.
Their relationship appears to be at some impasse. With an almost glassy expression of happiness, Sonoe goes through the motions of fulfilling her role in their house … but it’s after hours – when the two are wrapped up in the expression of sexual release – that she finally appears alive, stimulated, and interested in her affairs. Otherwise, her existence is little more than routine; in bed, however, Seiji binds her wrists, arms, and shoulders with rope, and (playfully) ravages her body to her apparent delight (she smiles ever-so-briefly near the end of their act).
In the world of finance, Seiji is not so lucky, it would seem, as one bad fiscal decision after another has position his company for a devastating takeover by Mr. Tsuyama. Seiji’s friend and business partner – Yoshida – appeals to Sonoe to go and speak with Tsuyama, believing she may be able to use her feminine wiles to stave off the worst … but, as fate would have it, Tsuyama’s penchant for an aggressive takeover also happens to describe how he treats women. Still, the gruff businessman introduces Sonoe to a stark reality – that how she lives her life sexually in private there are others engaged in performance art. She’s seduced by this actuality – not entirely willingly – but enough so that it serves as her undoing.
If this all sounds a bit pedantic (if not dull), that’s probably because much of it is. As hard as SECRETS tries to be about aggressive sexuality and/or one woman’s personal disillusionment, it really isn’t; there’s far too much subtext here to please fans expecting Pinku action, and there’s far too much Pinku action to legitimately interest fans of plain old adult drama. SECRETS kinda/sorta feels like a film that never quite figured out what it wanted to be, and, as a result, ends up flailing with a script loosely based on the works of Oniroku Dan, “Japan’s master of eroticism.” Ms. Suzuki tries hard (pun intended), but her performance outside of the bedroom is so plain one might stop to ask if she even realizes she’s being filmed. Add to all of this the fact that the screenplay by Masashi Shimizu and (director) Yutaka Ohgi is so light on explanation and methinks more folks will feel lost in translation.
Still, all of the players manage to deliver up some nice sentiments in the last act (though part of it ends up unnecessarily bloody). They almost serve up a respectable “true love conquers all,” and that’s a curious message indeed for a film about light S&M domination.
SECRETS OF A DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE is produced by Cinema Epoch, Groundbreaker, and The Klock Worx. DVD distribution is being handled through Cinema Epoch. As for the technical specifications, the picture looks and sounds mostly solid, though this is a story that has minimal dialogue. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Japanese spoken language release with English subtitles. As is often the case when these smaller foreign films find distribution in the States, there are no real special features to speak of save a gallery of still from the production that, essentially, involve Ms. Suzuki in some of her more compromising positions.
RECOMMENDED. Despite the kinda/sorta laconic pacing, there’s still plenty in SECRETS OF A DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE to get excited about; the downside is that it isn’t due to the traditional excess of sex and/or skin one would come to expect of a Pink/Pinku-style film. What there is here is a curious drama about how a husband and a wife manage to endure despite events that would normally pull them apart – that they find one another again, as crazy as that may seem in this big, ol’ universe – and beat the odds. Skin aficionados will likely find this one much too tame, while mainstream audiences will likely avoid it do to the packaging (which leads one to believe it’s heavy into more palatable S&M, though it isn’t). An interesting misfire … but aren’t they all?
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