Sex, drugs and cameras have made the new reality, this is The Bedroom. A strangely warm film, even when dealing in it's central location, the mysterious and nefarious "Sleeping Room" in which women come to be fondled and photographed in drugged submission. The tone is erotic, perplexing, beguiling, not cold or clinical. Where earlier Sato films gave us seductive dance now is the consummation, disconnections complete through Halcion and fractured psyche, cameras an active, living presence, voyeurism no longer perversion but healthy state of mind. It's a slippery film despite a climactic revelation that appears to draw events together, like a wet dog it squirms away virtually at the instant of a firm hold, but the effect is not unsatisfying, it appears more an understanding of the folly of certitudes. There are some clear and notable features though, mostly cameras which have grown from mere mediating devices to active participants, their work in the Sleeping Room and how they act outside. In that strange room, female bodies in soft focus, nude, pliant and bathed in shifting light. The red light of watching camera swollen to great imposing orb casting unreal glow about the scene, with red combating swells of deep blue, transforming bodies to abstract communication, in one scene flesh very much like soft clay. Then the sleepy struggle of faltering relationship played out in protagonist Kyoko's flat, her afflictions passed on to her husband, they try to play out a normality they know to be a lie. Cameras here are not transformative and mystical, just another lying presence, when Kyoko films herself having sex the viewpoint remains hand held but wanders impossibly, when her husband uses the camera for video-diary he records contrived close ups and filter effects. And of course there are the trademark Sato rooftop conversations, his moods of bleak isolation, of a city bare, lyrical apocalyptic musings and psychology that emerges mostly in the gaps.
This is all good stuff, emotive with streaks of visual flair, culminating in perhaps my favourite moment of the film-maker so far. But at the same time his growth in maturity has its corresponding loss in punkish energy, The Bedroom doesn't excite and ignite in the way one might hope. There also isn't much in the way of perversion or genuine menace, though there is rape (of course) and some violence, and perhaps one could probably argue that paying to fondle and photograph an unconscious woman is not exactly a hallmark of psychosexual stability. Interesting but not really enough, this needed more fangs. The art crowd will surely dig this more than Sato's earlier work, and fans of his earlier work will no doubt like it less. Me, I liked it well enough, and I suspect repeat viewings will present it clearer, sharper in the mind for better appreciation. So 7/10 for the moment I guess.