JAPAN 2010 Directed by: Kota Yoshida Written by: Kota Yoshida Produced by: Takashi Hirota Cinematography by: Akitoshi Minami Cast: Noriko Eguchi, Shota Sometani, Saori Hara, Jun Miho, Noriko Kijima, Shige Kasai
YURIKO’S AROMA seems exemplary to me for illustrating the opportunities and limitations of independent cinema. As much as it can take liberties the mainstream has to refrain from as it targets a mass audience, it also has difficulties at times getting out of its self-made niche. This is not to say that independent films want to get out of their niche, but as much as they feel happy within their own comfort zone (which again lies outside the comfort zone of the mainstream) they also often tend to be too much in love with their subject and never look beyond to see if it is of any relevance to the world out there.
YURIKO’S AROMA tells the story of an aroma therapist who gets caught in an affair triangle: one of her female clients is seriously hitting on her every time she comes for treatment, while at the same time she is being attracted to a young student because his head smells so incredibly good. Like a pollen seeking bee Yuriko follows the scent of Tetsuya and eventually ends up giving him a handjob in a run down building. But that is only the beginning of a difficult process of finding out what this relationship is all about.
We have seen all sorts of weird things coming out of Japan, so in case you are used to edgy films like VISITOR Q don’t worry too much, YURIKO’S AROMA is relatively harmless. Then again, maybe that’s one of its problems: it’s not breaking taboos consequently enough to stir our thoughts while at the same time Yoshida seems to believe that he has reinvented the wheel with this unsettling love story. Maybe it’s just me but I do not enjoy seeing teenagers jerked off by an older woman. Yuriko’s motivations, her issues, her hopes and fears never adequately reflect in her behavior or succeed in making the story any meaningful.
You don’t necessarily need transgressions to create impact, a movie simply has to relate to the world no matter how small or niche it is. It is difficult to clearly identify YURIKO’s theme, as much as it is hard to identify with any of the characters. They all seem to be coming from a different planet, what they are doing just doesn’t concern us (if it would you’d probably have serious issues). I wish I could say there’s a hidden meaning embedded in the movie, but I am afraid this is not the case.
YURIKO’S AROMA is self-centered and spending all of its time on odd people, odd situations and odd actions. It shuts the audience out, never involves. Everything is what it seems to be, making YURIKO’S AROMA a documentation of a dreary existence run by poor judgment and based on even poorer values.
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