Dawn of the Felines [JIFF 2017] – Review

Looking to add a little more substance to your late-night fare?
Asian girls at a club

18th Jeonju International Film Festival
Midnight Cinema

Dawn of the Felines (牝猫たち)

  • Directed by: Kazuya Shiraishi (白石和彌)
  • Starring: Juri Ihata (井端珠里), Satsuki Maue (真上さつき), Michie (美知枝), Takuma Otoo (音尾琢真), Tomohiro Kaku (郭智博), Hideaki Murata (村田秀亮)
  • The Film: Misako, Yui, and Rie work together at a small escort service in Tokyo. The women deal with their own life struggles in a different way as each develop a unique connection with their respective repeat clients.

Review

Dawn of the Felines is one of the Roman Porno (Pink) films to be screened in the Midnight Cinema section at Jeonju this year. These films are being recognized not only for their bold expression, but also for their potential new forms of expression in film. For more information on the Nikkatsu Roman Porno reboot project, please see Ami Tomite and Juri Ihata’s introduction of Antiporno, which was also screened.

With most of the Roman Porno films from the Nikkatsu canon being told largely from male perspectives, writer/director Kazuya Shiraishi planned for DOTF to do the opposite, and focused his story and characters around the perspective of women. To what degree of success he accomplishes this I will leave to the female audience out there. Nonetheless, the story is told through the eyes of three women (the felines) who are working as escorts in Tokyo, and whose lives are portrayed as being anything but glamorous. The women spend their working hours sitting in a small room, bored and chit chatting until the boss receives a call with a request. After the appropriate girl is selected, she gets driven to a residence to perform her services.

Besides the women’s particular line of work, they are quite ordinary and struggle with problems that many women can possibly relate to. Misako (Juri Ihata) is a young runaway with nowhere to call home, sleeping alone in cyber cafes most nights. She struggles to connect with others emotionally and seems lost in the world. Yui (Satsuki Maue) is a lonely single mom who is physically abusive and neglectful to her young son, and often leaves him with a stranger whom she pays to watch him for a few days while she goes on short stints of work. Rie (Michie) is older than the other girls and is dealing with a depression linked to her infertility.

DOTF is supposed to be told through a woman’s point of view but often doesn’t feel particularly so. The male clients that each woman forms a bond with have their own problems and have similar if not more depth to their characters than the women do at times. Yui, the abusive single mom, comes off as particularly abrasive and it is very hard to find anything at all to like about her character. There are very few opportunities to learn what drives Yui to behave the way she does, but the mystery that remains about her past keeps her interesting.

The three women’s development throughout DOTF is moderately interesting, but the real pay off is how the evolution of their characters is portrayed through their sex scenes. Since Roman Porno films must have a sex scene every 10 minutes, sometimes the sex scenes can seem to come out of nowhere and lacking a smooth transition. However, DOTF manages this very effectively with each sex scene well designed to show a particular stage in the metamorphosis of each woman that leads up to her respective climax.

There is a dark humor that runs through DOTF with sporadic moments of more serious drama mixed in. With no serious risks taken, the film feels much like a traditional drama film that just so happens to feature explicit sex scenes. What makes DOTF standout from your typical soft-core porno movie though is that it has a script that blows the others out of the water, making for an actual film with substance to enjoy and not one to just skim through looking for skin. So, if you are looking to add a lot more substance to your late-night fare, look no further than Dawn of the Felines!

Trailer


GV with star of “Antiporno” Ami Tomite (left) and Juri Ihata (right), star of Dawn of the Felines, at the 18th Jeonju International Film Festival.


 

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