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Film Review: Lipstick (2013)

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SYNOPSIS:

Supermodel Arina is doing a photo shoot for a new lipstick when she is attacked by a crazed fan. Officer Gotoda comes to her rescue and quickly subdues the young man. Arina’s sister Keiko, who is also her manager, heaps praise on the brave policeman; Arina, still shaken, gives him the lipstick sample from the shoot as a token of her appreciation. When it later becomes clear that Arina has a new stalker watching her every move, the sisters rely on Gotoda to solve the case. Little do they realize that he spends his time off-duty masturbating in front of a wall plastered with pictures of the lovely model.

REVIEW:

Japanese adult video star Miyuki Yokoyama has embarked on a new stage in her career in recent years, appearing in a series of cheap exploitation movies – throwbacks to the rape and revenge strand of grindhouse cinema. Troma Entertainment has released them on DVD in two sets of double features; paired with Weekend on “From Asia with Lust Volume 2”, Lipstick is actually Yokoyama’s debut within the genre, and in some ways is the best of the bunch.

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With members of cast and crew, themes and production values shared among the four films – three of which, including Lipstick, were directed by Ainosuke Shibata – Troma’s latest offering might strike some as overkill. While Hitch-Hike and Weekend were largely forgettable, with Camp supplying the most outlandish fun, Lipstick manages to squeeze more out of the low-key approach and trashy material than the entries that followed.

After Arina is raped by the very man believed to be her protector, she tries to bring him to justice – unsuccessfully, of course, as the guidelines of Rape and Revenge 101 decree. Arina then confronts Gotoda at a meeting held by her agency’s legal advisor (also a woman), accompanied by her sister Keiko, who is supportive despite believing that Arina is mistaken about the identity of her assailant. Gotoda barely needs to say a word, as the lawyer goes into detail about the likely result – as well as the dire consequences of making a formal accusation that is ultimately rejected by the court, on account of the lack of proof (poor Arina somehow forgot to retain a sample of the rapist’s baby gravy).

The lawyer warns Arina of the trauma of “second rape” at the hands of the unforgiving legal system, which could not only destroy her career but also see her forced to pay damages herself. The cold, self-preserving stance taken by her employers, coupled with her sister’s concerned disbelief, results in further attacks, of course, leading to the climactic revenge that must conclude this type of film as surely as night follows day.

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Lipstick is unexpectedly powerful in the scenes where the consequences of rape are expressed or discussed. The shockwaves sent through Arina’s relationships, both personal and professional, are portrayed vividly and effectively; the victims’ grief is a stronger element here than in Shibata’s later efforts. In this way, the film transcends the limitations of the series as a whole, although gorehounds will be disappointed by the lack of graphic violence and nudity.

Another interesting aspect of these films, strengthened in Lipstick through its involvement of the authorities, is the contradiction (some might call it a double standard) that arises from the new direction Yokoyama’s career has taken. Where her participation in p**nography invites viewers to get off on the sights and sounds of her willful engagement in sexual activity, the only sex that occurs in this film (aside from Gotoda’s spirited self-servicing) is non-consensual. In keeping with the genre, this confuses attitudes toward pleasure derived from watching sex onscreen.

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Having said that, those intolerant of the genre will no doubt accuse its eager viewers of complicity. Either way, it puts food on Yokoyama’s table – although after watching her being sexually assaulted repeatedly over the course of these four films, you may feel the need to write a formal apology to her or something. Hopefully she’ll wind up with some less abusive roles. Or maybe she is trying to escape the boredom of shooting p**n. Whether she’s wielding a blade or just getting laid, I’m sure her legion of fans – not to mention Kleenex stockholders – will be satisfied.

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