jump to navigation

Lalapipo (2009) November 15, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Film.
Tags: , ,

Lalapipo poster

There are only two types of people in the world, those who take chances and those who don’t. The trouble is, more often than not, those chances still land you in a stinking pile of shit.

That’s essentially the premise of Lalapipo, the title of which alludes the ‘lot of people’ in Tokyo. It’s a film about the dead-end lives of several Tokyoites stuck in the city’s sex industry — that weird underbelly of Japanese society that’s seemingly always in your face, but which people try not to talk about in everyday conversation.

It’s perfect subject matter then for Tetsuya Nakashima (of Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko fame), who excels at bringing out the weird, funny, but painful, reality of Japan’s hopeless. (As it happens, Nakashima was just the screenwriter on this one, but his fingerprints are all over this. There’s even a car-crash scene in which one of the main characters gets tossed in the air à la Momoko in Kamikaze Girls).

(SPOILERS AHEAD)Lalapipo is told episodically, focusing on six characters trying to make the best of what they have: a hikkikomori, unable to come to terms with the fact that he is fat and ugly, who imagines his penis as a fluorescent green puppet (I am not making this up); an amicable young woman coerced into working at a hostess bar, then a sex club and finally porn movies, under the (mis)guidance of her deceitful boyfriend; a sex industry scout, using his good looks and charm to try and make something of his otherwise crappy situation; a sexually frustrated housewife with a working as a mature porn actress; a wimp so repressed that he acts out by dressing up as a rubber-suited superhero; a chubby gothic loli who’s not as much of a victim as she seems.

If you were to track my attention while watching this film, it would look something like this:


I love characters that are so weird they are practically caricatures out of a manga, and was initially intrigued as to which of the side characters would next have their backstory revealed. Midway through though, I did start to wonder where on earth it was all going, how many stories we were going to have to sit through, and whether I would be permanently disturbed by the sheer hopelessness of it all.

But the final two segments save it. While it doesn’t all tie together in a nice happy ending (though in true Asian movie-style they all laugh at the end), it ends in bittersweet fashion. The pimp gets his comeuppance — just as he realises the true happiness of his situation — and a final fan letter details how one can find hope in hopelessness, beauty in the trash, a smattering of real, clean, sunlight in the artificial twinkling of the Tokyo skyline (or some other tortured metaphor).

And that’s essentially what I like about Tetsuya Nakashima movies. Caricatures or not, its grounded in reality that is God-awful, but which you somehow feel like you can cope with — after all, these losers do ;) I guess that’s why they all laugh at the end. There are certainly a ‘lalapipo’ in this world, and sometimes what gets us by is laughing at each others misery, and our own.



1. Hummy - April 9, 2010

It’s with great shame that I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this film at all. I thought Memories Of Matsuko was far more endearing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: