If you find yourself sitting through any of three loosely connected films referred to as a “Hate Trilogy,” you should adjust your philosophical expectations accordingly.
Guilty of Romance, the third and final entry in Sion Sono’s expectedly disagreeable triptych, is difficult to sit through for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the torment suffered by our protagonist, the lovely Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka).
Izumi’s marriage to a successful romance novelist (Kanji Tsuda) is a clinical and loveless arrangement (irony!). As a result, she reluctantly seeks distraction in a manner the Internet has taught us is common to more people than we would have guessed: nude modeling. This is quickly followed by casual sexual encounters in public restrooms and, finally, outright prostitution.
It seems like Sono wants to present this as a deranged exercise in empowerment, even as he alternates Izumi’s newfound confidence with scenes of extreme degradation. The tonal inconsistency suggests he’s uncertain whether this journey of discovery is meant to be liberating or shameful.
There are flashes of humor (the sausages Izumi hawks part-time at a local grocery store grow noticeably larger throughout the film), while the recurrence of a grisly murder investigation by the methodical Detective Yoshida (Miki Mizuno) in Tokyo’s “love hotel district” provides some gore to go with all the sexual humiliation.
Mostly, Guilty of Romance seems content allowing characters to verbally abuse each other before eventually reaching the inevitable conclusion that life is a burden and all love is illusory.