A bunch of weird, lonely and questionable characters lives criss and cross in the admittedly amusing but somewhat bad taste sex farce, ‘Lala Pipo’. Now modern society is awash with every kind of sexual service, fantasy and deviancy and nowhere more so than Japan. But with every kind of perversion on offer and money to be made from them the modern sexual underworld can be a lonely, profitable and scary place, as a lot of people find out in this very offbeat Japanese comedy.
Walking a fine line between quirky cool and being a little too distasteful, ‘Lala Pipo’ certainly embraces its outlandish subject matter and, just, manages to keep it all on track as at its heart the film is about lonely people. Taking the ever popular set up of interlinking story lines, the film sees a collection of characters crossing paths as they attempt to find love, deal with loneliness and inadequacies and in certain cases, navigate the often surreal world of the Japanese sex industry. We have Kenji a scout looking for hot girls to model and star in porn films. He hooks up with Tomoko whose naivety leads her into the porn business. Kenji also represents Yoshie Sato an older and very lonely woman also in the porn business and who may have links to Tomoko. Then there is Hiroshi, a failing writer who meets Sayori, a girl who likes to dress in Little Bo Peep outfits and film herself for lonely people on the internet. They begin a relationship but Hiroshi can’t get over his feelings of inadequacy and that he and Sayori are not considered beautiful by society’s standards and turns violent as a result. Oh, and then there is Hiroshi, a troubled youngster who takes to dressing up as a ‘Power Ranger’ (complete with large phallic appendage!) type hero to save people from their impure thoughts. Yep, surreal indeed.
A dude dressing up as a porno version of a ‘Power Ranger’ is only one of the many weird things people do in ‘Lala Pipo’. Its not always clear whether the film is trying to shock or simply just make fun of some of the crazy things people do. The film is often laugh out loud funny but then seems to cross a line into dark territory as it deals with subjects such as a man getting violent as a result of his own insecurity, mother and daughter porn and on one occasion (and mercifully briefly) male rape. Things usually considered not funny. Nothing wrong with confronting taboos, or what society considers taboo, but the tone doesn’t always gel. But then this is a black comedy and taste boundaries will be pushed as many of the characters do many questionable things. Just don’t expect the light hearted sex romp the trailer might suggest as the film, despite its striking colour scheme and kooky characters, has a lot more going on.
What saves ‘Lala Pipo’ from being an exercise in bad taste is its characters. The film does address loneliness, not least in a modern world awash with every kind of sexual service available. The characters, despite some of their motives, are well rounded and all lonely and disconnected from society in some way and looking for any kind of fulfilment they can find. The cast is excellent and the characters are given personalities, meaning there is some soul to be found in amongst all the craziness. Not a film for everyone and not quite the zany comedy one might be hoping for, ‘Lala Pipo’ is nevertheless a brave film on certain levels, often funny and will push some viewers out of their comfort zone even when they find themselves laughing out loud.