The intriguing thing about Videophobia is that it sounds like a thriller, but it's actually a very subtle, nuanced character study. Japanese filmmaker Daisuke Miyazaki tells a story that speaks to an issue quintessentially of our time, allowing us to see it through the eyes of a young female protagonist. Shooting in stark black-and-white that stunningly takes all the color out of Osaka, his emphasis on mood allows the picture to cast a spell on you. A little patience is required due to the intentionally slower pace. Put in the work, though, and the tale proves rewarding. Videophobia comes to Blu-ray on May 31 from Kani Releasing.
Ai (Tomona Hirota) has a job that requires her to put on a bunny costume and stand on the streets of Osaka, taking pictures with tourists and passersby. It's not a very exciting life, which may be why she goes home with a stranger after a night of dancing at one of the city's clubs. Soon after, Ai gets online and sees that the guy she had the one-night stand with recorded their actions and uploaded them to a porn site. From there, the movie traces her actions as she realizes that someone might recognize her. She talks to police, attends a support group, and ultimately makes a very unconventional choice about how to handle things.
Plenty of opportunities exist in that plot to generate suspense. Ai could have tracked the guy down for revenge, or had some sort of massive repercussion from being spotted on the tape. The film even could have had her embrace the situation and seek to pursue it further. What Miyazaki does is far more compelling because we don't anticipate it. Videophobia is about the psychological toll surreptitious porn takes on the victim. Ai starts to feel disconnected from the world around her. Already shy and withdrawn, she retreats further into herself, gradually coming to a place where the only coping technique that feels feasible is the one that's extreme.
Aside from the atmospheric cinematography, the major selling point is Hirota's performance. With big, expressive eyes, the actress ably shows us what's happening inside Ai's mind, even as the character largely remains bottled up. We don't just watch her, we study her, scrutinizing every glance to figure out what she's thinking. Even when the pace of the plot slows down a little too much, Hirota is never less than captivating. The damage is real, even if Ai never outwardly states it, and when Videophobia reaches its conclusion, there's a lot to think about.
The Blu-ray comes with nice bonus material, including I'll Be Your Mirror, a 9-minute short from Miyazaki that also stars Hirota. A music video from the movie's eponymous end credits song – performed by Baku feat. Jin Dogg, Nunchaku, and Tomy Wealth – is here, too, as is a short trailer and an introduction from the film's director. Inside the box is a booklet containing a fairly extensive interview with Miyazaki. All in all, it's a solid package to support the main feature.
Click here to purchase a copy of Videophobia from Amazon.
out of four
Videophobia is unrated, but contains strong sexual content/nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.