Kiyoha is a popular young prostitute and much envied in the brothel. After being taken in there as a child she at first resists her fate and hopes to escape. However, she soon realises she must embrace her position in the brothel whatever that may entail. As well as struggling against the jealous matriarch she begins a relationship with a client with whom she forms an attachment.
The film is directed by Mika Ninagawa and her visual style is evident her with bright vivid colours and well established shots. Her weakness as a director is in any lack of evocative movement or awareness of using the camera other than to frame shots. At times the film would benefit from a more dynamic style. This coupled with the complete lack of plot leave this film feeling hollow despite a number of attempts to grab attention with dramatic turns of event. The music is provided by Shina Ringo and suits the modern-slant of this historical drama. The film attempts some heavy-handed, and as it turns out entirely inconsequential, metaphor and it’s clear from the lingering shots of the lead that this was intended to have a serious side. The problem is that you feel almost no sympathy for the character’s struggles as they rarely express any desire to do anything. While the film is set in a brothel it is rather tame, particularly Tsuchiya Anna’s scenes and excepting the scenes of the women bathing.
The film is an examination of sex and love and of being stuck in a life with little purpose or chance of salvation. You can view it either as a successfully depressing look at life in a brothel where nothing ever really changes and the soulless objectified women are servile to a ruling class of similarly cretinous men. Or as a failure that set aesthetic values above storytelling, so interested in the concept of a prostitute as heroine that the filmmakers forgot to write a compelling script.
Based on the manga by Moyoko Anno.