Kyoko (Kiyomi Itô) likes to attend a fetish club in Tokyo where she and other young women are given a special drug called Halcion which makes them pass out and have vivid hallucinations while they sleep. As they do so, men pay for the privilege of examining and playing with their inert and naked bodies, all without the women's knowledge of what they are up to: the sexual element merely enhances their experience, and no intercourse takes place. But Kyoko has a twin sister, Maya, who is married to a computer programmer and feels there is something lacking in her life... could the benefits of adding a video camera to her private life be something she finds she really needs?
As an exponent of the Japanese pinku eiga style, Hisayasu Satô established himself in the nineteen-nineties as one of the more extreme, out there directors, willing to go to places in his hour-long movies that few others were keen to follow. His work has not travelled well, despite how prolific he is, and his output waned past his nineties heyday, but in Japan he established a reputation among the fans of such softcore sex films as a kind of equivalent to David Cronenberg, wishing to use the format to explore some very grim ideas about what it means to be human, to be sexual, and seemingly more importantly to be the sort of person who wishes to watch others get up to sexual stuff.
This voyeur's impulse would surely be part and parcel of anyone who was a fan of pinku eiga, so to turn the camera back on those who like to watch but don't like to be watched was subversive to say the least. However, quite what precisely Satô was trying to say could well be confounding, especially on the evidence of The Bedroom where you could be forgiven for not being able to discern any plot whatsoever, simply viewing a bunch of loosely related sequences and emerging from the other side little the wiser as to what the point of it all was. The director certainly knew what he was on about, and this had the air of a filmmaker making a statement rather than a collection of bits and bobs, but he didn't make it easy.
Definitely not making it easy was the presence of an actual murderer in the cast, though you would be forgiven for not recognising him. Issei Sagawa was that man, apparently chief voyeur, and possibly owner, of the club, seen on a television screen overseeing the events, though little more than an extended cameo that Satô had included purely for sensationalistic reasons. Sagawa had become notorious in Japan for getting away with his crime of killing and eating a fellow student while in France - he was judged criminally insane and unfit to stand trial, so his rich businessman father arranged for him to return to Japan where he faced no punishment or incarceration whatsoever. Understandably, there has been some objection to this, especially as Sagawa became a celebrity off the back of his crime.
But if you were watching The Bedroom, aka Uwakizuma: Chijokuzeme or Unfaithful Wife: Shameful Torture, because of that, you might be let down that the most famous person in the cast had very little to do. However, there was not much motive to watch otherwise, as the film was so oblique, throwing in the sex scenes that were staples of the genre but also having the characters constantly questioning their identity in ways that quickly tested the patience, that it wasn't much fun to sit through, erotically or intellectually. Confusion was the most likely reaction, and the atmosphere of futuristic decadence may have been pervasive, but it was also monotonous, the overall sense of watching some space aliens' notion of what constituted soft porn not enough to redeem it as an entertainment. With thousands of these churned out of Japan since the sixties, in all shapes and forms, perhaps The Bedroom, Satô's filmography in general, in fact, was probably not the best place to start unless you really wanted to plunge into the high weirdness.