“Filmmaking is a battle we can’t lose,” says a possible investor to director Tetsuo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) in Lowlife Love. If that’s the case, then call this film a defeat of the highest order. Eiji Uchida’s latest follows Tetsuo, his crew, and his competitors for three seasons, as the director scams his way into financing a new production, one that will hopefully rejuvenate his failing career. Among the film’s many lows, the most glaring one might be Tetsuo himself: his cantankerous unlikeability borders on sociopathic. He steals from his family, molests countless women, and assaults anyone who disagrees with him. Tetsuo is so vehemently toxic that the pathos the film tries to afford him (“at least he hasn’t sold out”) wrings fatally false, especially in the “redemptive” last act. And that’s without even fully delving into the film’s wild misogyny, its degradation of practically every woman who enters the frame. Women exist here largely just to have sex with the men, using this to get them ahead in their careers or just because they have so much love for our director. Worse still, there’s not really a laugh in sight throughout this black comedy.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2016 | Dispatch 1.