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(aka "Top‚zu" or "Topaz" or "Sex Dreams of Topaz")

 

directed by RyŻ Murakami
Japan 1992

 

After a particularly rough session, prostitute Ai (Miho Nikaido, HENRY FOOL) consults a fortune teller who advises her to do three things to safeguard herself: 1) place a telephone directory under her television set, 2) avoid art galleries in the east, and 3) find a pink stone and have it made into a ring. Still pining for her celebrity ex-boyfriend who left the country six months before and has since returned without contacting her, Ai is eager to try anything to better her life. Ai puts the phone books under her television, is not planning to travel anytime soon, and buys an expensive topaz ring. Her next assignment is an extended threesome with crooked businessman Ishioka (author Masahiko Shimada) and his mistress that is intense but monetarily rewarding. During this encounter, she manages to lose the topaz ring; however, the next day she and another prostitute are sent back to the same hotel for another client. Ai goes back to Ishioka's hotel room only to discover Ishioka and his mistress being tortured by the Yakuza and barely escapes. She gets the ring back, but her subsequent encounters are not so rewarding financially (she has to give money back when she refuses to let a pseudo-necrophiliac rape her while she pretends to be dead) or sensually (an encounter with a goofy asphyxiation fetishist) until she engages in a threesome with "Turtlehead" and wealthy, successful Madame Saki. Her philosophy is that Japan is a wealthy country; however, since it is not proud of its riches, this drives Japanese men to masochism out of anxiety, and she reaps the rewards. She tells Ai that in order to be fulfilled, she has to take charge of things. Madame Saki gives her something form her stash of designer drugs to boost her confidence, but this sends Ai on a delirious and disastrous attempt to visit her ex-lover (and his nutty wife).

Based on his own book (director RyŻ Murakami is well-published in English and his novel AUDITION served as the basis for the acclaimed Takashi Miike film), TOKYO DECADENCE received a lot of hype in the United States purely on the basis of its NC-17 rating; and, like most NC-17 films from the nineties, it disappointed viewers expecting something especially juicy rather (partially the fault of the MPAA and distributors wanting to repeat the cult success of titles like THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE, AND HER LOVER, HENRY & JUNE, and TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN). Although it apparently caused quite a stir in Japan, I'm not really sure how much of a revelatory probing into the nation's psyche it really is; peopled as it is not with Japanese salarymen, but with wealthy eccentrics, crooked executives, chic dominatrices, and grinning Yakuza henchmen. The film is relatively slick, but betrays the shortcomings of its budget technically with a couple jump-cuts, a shot in which the every frame in which the camera stopped with the shutter open, and a cheap synth score (credited to RyŻichi Sakamoto [THE LAST EMPEROR] of all people) more suited to direct to video and late night cable "erotic thrillers" than an artfilm. Stay tuned after the end credits for a dance performance by Nikaido.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 30 April 1993 (USA)

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DVD Comparison:

ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for all the Screen Caps!

(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

ArrowDrome

Region 0 - PAL

Cinema Epoch
Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:52:36 1:52:08
Video

1.75:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.69 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.76:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.48 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

ArrowDrome

 

Bitrate:

 

Cinema Epoch

 

Audio Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Subtitles English, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: ArrowDrome

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.75:1

Edition Details:
• Trailers for BATTLE ROYALE, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, DEEP RED, THE CHEERLEADERS and OBSESSION
• Reversible Sleeve
• Liner Notes Booklet by Robin Bougie

DVD Release Date: October 24th, 2011
Amaray

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Cinema Epoch

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.76:1

Edition Details:
• Trailer (4:3; 1:24)
• Essay by Nicholas Rucka
• Interview with director Ryu Murakami (4:3; 8:00)
• Still Gallery
• Also Available (cover gallery)

 

DVD Release Date: August 5th, 2008
Amaray

Chapters 24

 

Comments

Previously released by Arrow Films in a non-anamorphic widescreen version, ArrowDrome's dual-layer, anamorphic transfer is also an NTSC-PAL conversion, although the original NTSC master wasn't all that hot to begin with going by the Cinema Epoch edition. The ArrowDrome transfer sports mattes on the top and sides of the image (cropped away, the image measures out to 1.75:1). Although the Cinema Epoch version seems to come from the same master (albeit unconverted), it does not have the top and side matting (the framing is the same, however). It is also an interlaced transfer of the 112 minute version (it is rumored that a 135 minute version was premiered in Japan, but his version has not turned up on home video and may have been an earlier, rougher cut of the film rather than a more explicit version, or the director may have been urged to trim it to a more workable length for VHS and laserdisc distribution).

The Japanese mono track is similar on both versions, but the English subtitle translations are different (Ishioka tells Ai to act like a "horny secretary" in the ArrowDrome, and a "horny businesswoman" in the Cinema Epoch) with the ArrowDrome generally featuring cruder language during the S&M sessions. For image quality, it is a draw (with the Cinema Epoch disc looking marginally better). While the ArrowDrome disc offers trailers for other ArrowDrome releases and a liner notes booklet by Robin Bougie (not supplied for review), the Cinema Epoch disc featured the film's trailer, a multi-page text-screen essay by Nicholas Rucka, and a featurette labeled as an interview with the director. It is actually a promo clip with footage from the film and a talk by the director at a live S&M show (this portion comprises two and a half minutes of the eight minute featurette).


TOKYO DECADENCE was first released in the US on VHS by Triboro and on LD by Image Entertainment. It was this master that Image released on DVD in 1999. This version featured both Japanese and English dubbed mono tracks (the running time is 108:36 and may either be cut - although it is reportedly the same as the NC-17 version [Triboro was known to trim their films, including some expository footage from their unrated versions of ANDY WARHOL'S DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN during the period when they had the rights] - or a PAL conversion). Another fullscreen release followed in 2003 by First Run Features. The French Film Sans Frontieres edition features English, Japanese, and Italian audio tracks but only French subtitles.

 - Eric Cotenas

 



DVD Menus
(
ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 

 


 

Screen Captures

(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)
Subtitle sample

 


(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(ArrowDrome - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Epoch - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Draw

Sound:

Draw

Extras: Cinema Epoch
Menu: Cinema Epoch

 
DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

ArrowDrome

Region 0 - PAL

Cinema Epoch
Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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