by Jason Suzuki
It's not surprising when you realize that Makeup Room, winner of the Grand Prize at this yea'rs Yubari International Film Festival, was originally a stage play before its creator turned it into a film. The overall style of the film, long takes that gently track with minimum cuts, all taking place inside the titular room, is reminiscent of another playwright turned filmmaker Koki Mitani. What might be the biggest difference between this film and the work of Mitani is the setting of a porn set, yet despite this Makeup Room is very tame, extremely enjoyable, and also like Mitani's work, very much a crowd-pleaser.
Still relatively early in his career as non-porn, non-assistant director of feature films, Kei Morikawa uses his experience in the AV industry to give realism and experiential insight into the inner workings of porn set for this film, much like how Rokuro Mochizuki did with his film Skinless Night (1991) about a middle aged porn director who wants to start making "serious" films. Morikawa doesn't focus on the director of the AV shoot though but on the makeup artist Kyoko (Aki Morita) who must work an entire day's shoot without any help (there is a running joke of the second makeup artist having difficulty getting/finding the set). The film was clearly shot on a small budget with limited time, another reason for the stageplay-esque style which calls for few locations, minimal shot set ups, and cuts.
The film consists of a lot of running around, Kyoko being the unsung hero of the set, encouraging actresses to get back out there or finding ways to avoid problems that might hinder the shooting schedule. Like The Uchoten Hotel, in which many stories intertwine in the hotel, here many stories intertwine in the makeup room. In what seems to be a gag involving the casting, one of the three AV actress cast in the film (the three of them are featured in a group photo in the corner of the front cover) Nanami Kawakami plays an extremely shy rookie whose first film is today's shoot. The rest of the cast of characters include some other fresh faces, two seasoned performers, one who loves her job and one who loathes it, taking it out on everyone else, and a easily irritable DP (the other kind of DP). As the film goes on we find out more about the concerns of the actresses, which is as close as the film gets to dealing with some of the unfortunate realities that exist within this industry. On a side note, Kawakami states that the main difference between AV acting and film acting is that with film you are pretending while in porn you (or at least she) is really enjoying it. This lighthearted look at the porn industry might leave those looking for a critical expose disappointed. Surprisingly, apart from a few lines here and there which may shock and disgust the non-perverted, this is a mass appeal film. The film's minimal budget being the only thing that might push people away.
Included on the disc are trailers for some other films in Third Window Films' catalog but we also get three separate interviews with director Kei Morikawa, actress Aki Morita, and AV actress Nanami Kawakami. Altogether they total about an hour's worth of bonus material with lots of great bits of info in each one. Apparently we can expect a continuation of Makeup Room as well as another entry in the series to take place in another makeup room not on a porn set. Interviewing both Morita and Kawakami creates a great contrast between a regularly working actress and one who is just now starting to get into non-AV acting (as well as music).
The porn elements of its setting are so minimal that anyone who has tried to make a movie with no budget, a small group of cast and crew, and in just one day can relate to. It's easy to see why this film would win at Yubari as it celebrates the independent spirit to keep on going through hardships and setbacks, such as a scatterbrained director or being scheduled for a lesbian scene right after having your nails done.