Sexual Drive draws the straightest possible line between food and sex, never striving for anything deeper or more creative than basic simile.
For nearly as long as humans have been eating and screwing, food and sex have been linked in philosophy, science, and art. Edible aphrodisiacs have been mythologized for nearly all of recorded history, the term food porn has been in use since at least the 1970s, and films like Tampopo have memorably linked the culinary and the erotic. Yoshida Kota’s Sexual Drive fits fairly squarely within this lineage, but it doesn’t do much to suggest it’s of particular interest or perspective in its own right. For a film that largely consists of filthy conversations, its destinations are too often mundane and sexually platitudinous, continuously arriving at the conclusion you’d expect it to: food makes people horny.
Split into three stories, each focused on a different dish — natto, mapo tofu, and ramen — Sexual Drive has one character who recurs throughout. This man appears to be the main character of each section and acts as a sort of prurient fairy, regaling the others with erotic tales somehow related to food. In the first, he tells a sexless man that he is cuckolding him and that his wife’s genitals smell like natto, the fermented soybean dish she loves to eat. Next, he tracks down a woman who bullied him in grade school and instructs her to embrace her sadistic sexual nature and, also, make homemade mapo tofu. She does so and becomes aroused, practically climaxing from the dish’s heat. Finally, he phones a man to tell him he picked up his abandoned mistress at a ramen shop and is now having sex with her. Guess what, this guy is horny too. It’s this thudding repetition that makes it obvious that Sexual Drive only has one idea, and not a novel one at that. The closest Kota comes to an exciting, perverse notion is in the second segment, when the man, in a masochistic fervor, begs the woman to hit him with her car. But this fantasy isn’t even made good on, as the film is content to trade in the most staid ideas of eroticism. One money shot, so to speak, is simply a close-up on a woman eating as sticky strands of food extend from her lips to the dish. It’s a basic and unimaginative approach that mirrors common pornographic imagery, drawing the straightest line possible between food and sex, without striving for anything deeper or more creative. And so, while all of this hinges on an ostensible connection between food and sex, outside of basic simile, the two are kept shockingly, disappointingly separate.
Originally published as part of IFFR 2021 — Dispatch 4.