It might surprise you that Japan has such a very open sex industry – there are over 12,000 sex-related industries operating in the country and although the country has anti-prostitution laws, there are seemingly quite a few ways to get around it by renaming your ‘establishment’ a bar or a restaurant. The country has a surprisingly open relationship with sex in many ways (see my previous blog on Shunga art), so if you’re interested in a fictionalised behind-the-scenes film about female porn stars, Makeup Room is a pretty insightful, funny but at times uncomfortable watch.
Makeup Room takes a look behind the curtain of Japan’s porn industry, shot in two days all in the confined space of one room with a budget of £1,300. It’s one to watch if you enjoy ‘amateur’ independent movies like Be My Baby.
Makeup artist Tsuzuki has to handle a minefield of characters as a low-budget adult video is shot next door. From the ‘old-timer’ porn star, to a stuck-up pro, to a shy ‘newbie’, to a sleezy manager to the short-fused director, she has to handle the drama and counsel the girls all in the space of an hour and a half. All the action takes place in the makeup room and characters run in and out for filming, which you only ever hear about in cringy detail afterwards.
Makeup Room is a surprisingly touching experience in some places but pretty harrowing and depressing in others. How do these seemingly normal young women become seasoned pornstars, and what is it really like on the film scene? These questions are addressed to a large extent – as the director Kei Morikawa actually draws on his own experiences as a director in the adult video industry.
If you’re not particularly comfortable listening to people talking about sex in film or aren’t very familiar with Japanese cinema, this probably isn’t the film for you. That said, if you are in the market for a more unusual and off-the-cuff independent film, Makeup Room has a lot to offer.