Bon Appétit! – Sexual Drive (IFFR 2021 Film Review)

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Munch, crunch, slurp. There’s a beauty to eating food. With every meal, there’s a tender texture behind every plate, every bowl, every serving. With every dish, there is always two primary intentions. The first is nutrition to feed the client with enough energy to go on with their day. The second is pleasure. Nothing beats the taste of trying a dish that compliments one’s taste buds exquisitely. There will always be something deeply erotic about eating a fine-class meal, regardless of the sexual intentions behind the making of the plate itself. We’ve all had at least one glorious moment with food — a memory that takes hold of our internal desires of blissful happiness. Parodying this aforementioned universal feeling of emotional purity, Yoshida Kota’s minimalistic Sexual Drive is an absurdly satisfying romp. 

Divided into three unique chapters, each of the segments featured within Sexual Drive have two unique things in common. The first is a specific food item — a delicacy that is frequently mentioned and engrained in the narrative of these short vignettes. Natto, Mapo Tofu, and Ramen with Extra Back Fat are the primary meals that consume each of the sexually unsatisfied characters throughout the triptych. The second unifying factor is the reincorporation of a devilish character entitled Kurita. This character is a man who toys with each of the characters in different forms of sexual exploitation. Humiliation, threats, and even kink-pleading consume Kurita’s undefined motivations throughout each of the segments. Yet, there is not a single single sex scene throughout the entire film. 

Sexual Drive is a film about restraint. A film that personifies objects of normalcy to make a statement on generalised first-world sexual repression. The issue with the film’s intent is that Kota frequently blatantly states his themes and intentions, ruining all the fun out of a simple innuendo. Subtext is always key to these sort of erotic fantasies. More often than not, the segments often come off as amateurish in its tonal delivery. It’s a shame, since each of the chapters feature a uniquely dirty vibe. The simplistic settings and minimal cast add a level of unintended intimacy to each of the chapters. 

Many will undeniably compare Sexual Drive to the work of Juzo Itami. It’s a valid comparison for the most part, although Kota never reaches the same gratifying erotic heights of Tampopo. Although, as a director, Kota should consider extending Sexual Drive into a serialised format. A television series that extends on Kurita’s journey of orchestrated sexual mayhem. A show that further examines the causes of these kinks and the correlation with the mundanity of daily routine. It’s a bold statement; but as for now, the feature version of this concept is a lukewarm dish at best.

Dir: Yoshida Kota

Scr: Yoshida Kota

Cast: Serizawa Tateto, Hashimoto Manami, Ikeda Ryo, Sato Honami,

DOP: Seki Masafumi

Country: Japan

Year: 2021

Runtime: 70 minutes

Sexual Drive premiered at this year’s historic Rotterdam Film Festival edition, as part of the Big Screen Competition program. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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David Cuevas

David Cuevas is a writer, reporter, and the official festivals editor (US/Canada) for FilmHounds Magazine. In his spare time, you can find him watching a bunch of movies while contemplating on his own existence.

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