Sexual Drive and It’s a Summer Film! are screening as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival that runs Aug. 5 to Aug. 25.
Kôta Yoshida’s Sexual Drive is a triptych film surrounding themes of anger and lust which revolve largely around a single, lecherous figure named Kurita (Tateto Serizawa). It is hard to know for sure if what Kurita says is ever the truth, and his sole aim seems to be to push other people’s buttons regarding their sexual insecurities for the sake of his own sexual gratification. In the first segment, for instance, he appears at a man’s home to mournfully apologize for perpetuating an affair with that man’s significant other, and then he goes on to describe in graphic detail the sexual acts involved therein.
The existence of Kurita in this film as a sort of unstoppable embodiment of fear, insecurity, and disgust toward sex (perhaps his ultimate function is a more broad and symbolic embodiment of a these attitudes) is effectively unsettling. The main issue I have with Sexual Drive is not its provocation—no, that is the most compelling aspect. The motifs which link sexual appetite and literal hunger makes this appear like a less sensual Tampopo. It is that these provocations are cut too short which sunk my experience of the film.
I was not aware that this was an anthology film when it cut away from its first segment, and I was expecting more from this introductory story. This is not to say that each segment does not have a full story arc, but each time the film moves on to its next setting I found the button oddly rushed and the narrative lacking closure. I enjoyed watching the central figure move across these segments like a lecherous poltergeist, as the performance is wonderfully disquieting. But I left each segment, and the film as a whole, unsatisfied.
Sexual Drive: C+
It’s A Summer Film!
It’s a Summer Film! is, in one sense, a movie about two competing film club productions, one a romance and one a samurai film, each headed by an ambitious young filmmaker. In another sense, it is a film about the importance of craft, where the pursuit of artistic greatness is meaningful in and of itself. It is also a film with a light science fiction premise involving time travel and a future where feature films are no longer made.
The film, from Soushi Matsumoto, is a charming and lively depiction of ambition, friendship, and the trials of the filmmaking process. The characters all have vibrant personalities. Marika Ito, playing the film’s central figure, gives a lovely performance which captures all of the passion, drive, and frustration of the director’s job.
If anything holds this film back, it is the science fiction angle. Perhaps the film does not have enough meat on its bones without it, and while it does add to the aforementioned themes, it feels like an unnecessary addition. I think I would have enjoyed It’s a Summer Film! more had it been a process film about a first-time filmmaker going through the trials and tribulations of the artform. The script’s sound sense of humor and the dynamic cast of characters are more engaging than a deterministic time travel story.
It’s a Summer Film!: B
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)