Reconfiguring a classic pinku film as a somewhat more tasteful modern-day indie melodrama seems like a terrible idea, and guess what, it is. Kazuya Shiraichi’s Dawn of the Felines takes its title directly from Noboru Tanaka’s little-seen but influential Night of the Felines, and both concern the travails of a set of Tokyo sex workers. Tanaka’s original was almost completely devoid of any conventional ideas of dramatic structure, instead consisting mostly of gorgeous scope softcore sex, humming along nicely with regular pinku themes of transcendence and self-actualization through degradation and submission. Tough subject matter for most audiences, to be sure. Dawn, on the other hand, is a crushingly banal series of hoary melodramas concerning the lonely, unfulfilled lives of these young women, occasionally interrupted by barely explicit sex scenes that seem to have no interest in either titillation or comedy. Basic arthouse pablum, all filmed in standard docudrama handheld, entirely lacking in imagination or style.
Previously published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 1.