A foreign financier working in Japanese cinema is pretty rare. Yet, British producer Adam Torel and Japanese director Eiji Uchida have forged a strong relationship after Torel distributed Uchida’s 2013 film Greatful Dead. The pair have now teamed up to create Lowlife Love, a raw and powerful look into Japan’s indie film world.
Tetsuo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) is a wannabe film director who spends his time seducing aspiring actresses and fleecing his friends of what little money they have. He’s set up a film “club” to gouge naïve would-be collaborators and take advantage of admirer Mamoru (Yoshihiko Hosoda).
When attractive but mousey actress Minami (Maya Okano) joins his club, Tetsuo sees she has actual talent. She is shocked by his advances, but soon learns the route to the top for actresses is via the bedroom. Tetsuo continues to take credit for work that’s not his. He attempts to team up with established filmmaker Kano (Kanji Furutachi), but his ego and nasty temperament get in his way.
The situations and personalities feel true-to-life, and the Shimo-Kitazawa locations are spot on, but the flick falters in pushing forward the key characters. Minami, who Tetsuo sees as his muse, goes from a shy, stammering, shocked lass to a scheming sex goddess with a big career in the blink of an eye. We need more development if this is to be affecting. Still, this unique work is a breath of fresh air in a melodrama-addicted industry. At Theatre Shinjuku from April 2. It will be screened with English subtitles every Thursday. (Japanese title: Gesu no Ai; 118 min.)