SEXUAL DRIVE: Empty Calorie Food Porn

Written and directed by Japanese filmmaker Kōta Yoshida, Sexual Drive tells a triptych of stories about cravings both culinary and carnal, held together by the presence of one strange, shabby, and sinister man who sets out to convince others to explore their appetites to the fullest. Yet with a running time of a mere 70 minutes, Sexual Drive feels much more like a light snack than a hearty meal — and that’s one of the reasons why it’s less than fully satisfying.

Taste of Love

The main characters in each story are seemingly unconnected; the only thing that unites them is that each has a confrontation with Kurita (Tateto Serizawa), a mysterious and menacing stranger who knows a secret about each of them — a secret tied to their deepest desires.

In the first story, designer Enatsu (Ryô Ikeda) is anxious about his sexless marriage. Kurita then appears at his home to apologize for having a passionate affair with Enatsu’s wife, who he claims nursed him back to health in the hospital where she works after he had a stroke. Kurita’s apology involves some very graphic descriptions of their sexual encounters linked to the wife’s love of natto: a traditional Japanese food, made from fermented soybeans, that is often eaten for breakfast.

SEXUAL DRIVE: Empty Calorie Food Porn
source: Film Movement

In comparing the smell and taste of Enatsu’s wife to the natto that she loves to consume, Kurita drives Enatsu to the point of violence — and also ensures that Enatsu will never look at his wife over breakfast the same way ever again. Is Kurita telling the truth about their sexual encounters? That’s not really the point. Rather, Kurita is re-awakening Enatsu’s appetite for his wife by linking it to a different (but not entirely unrelated) type of craving.

This first segment in Sexual Drive was by far my least favorite, as the over-the-top explicit dialogue spewed by Kurita ended up being more grotesque than erotic. However, the remaining two segments provide a much better balance of the dark humor and sexual tension that flavor the entire film.

Uncontrollable Cravings

In the second story, we’re introduced to Akane (Honami Satô), an office worker who has been unable to drive due to extreme panic attacks. When she finally gets behind the wheel of a car in order to buy some sauce to make mapo tofu, she accidentally runs over Kurita, who proceeds to detail the sadomasochistic bullying that he claims Akane subjected him to while they were both in school. Kurita encourages Akane to give in to her desire to cause pain by not only hitting him with the car but making the spiciest and most authentic mapo tofu imaginable for her husband. The cooking scene that follows is the strongest scene in the film due to the striking and sensual way it explores how certain foods can ignite certain longings.

In the third story, advertising agent Ikeyama (Shogen) backs out of a meeting with his lover, with whom he is thinking about ending things. However, a disturbing phone call from Kurita changes all that. Kurita claims to have abducted Ikeyama’s lover and outlines in great detail how turned on she was by the fatty ramen noodles she was eating, taunting Ikeyama for his inability to properly satisfy her himself. Needless to say, as Ikeyama also partakes in the ramen, all the while hearing Kurita’s lewd narration in his ears, he becomes desperate to see his lover again.

SEXUAL DRIVE: Empty Calorie Food Porn
source: Film Movement

There are no sexual acts depicted onscreen in Sexual Drive. Instead, the act of eating is depicted in all its glory, with exaggerated sound effects and incredible close-ups of glistening fat, sizzling spices, and gooey natto. The eating scenes are deliberately photographed to look and feel pornographic, especially when paired with Kurita’s sexually explicit dialogue and Akira Matsumoto’s pulsating score. What Kōta Yoshida is trying to do here is obvious — too obvious — and that’s a large part of why the film failed to truly impress me.

Whereas Juzo Itami’s classic comedy Tampopo depicts the connection between food and sex with bright humor and great affection, Sexual Drive seems geared primarily towards shock value—and even then, it’s not that shocking. The film is just not that deep, nor is it really telling us anything new about human appetites. It’s just telling us those things in a weird way that feels designed to make us uncomfortable, right down to the presence of Kurita, whose pathetic physicality and lascivious attitude repulses each of the characters he comes in contact with. (He reminded me a great deal of the one-armed man from Twin Peaks). The subject matter is one that is ripe for cinematic interpretation, but Sexual Drive fails to do so in a complex and compelling way.

Conclusion

Sexual Drive has its moments, but you’ll likely find more satisfaction in a bowl of that fatty ramen than you will in this undercooked film.

What do you think? What are your favorite movies about food? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sexual Drive is released via virtual cinema, VOD and digital on April 22, 2022. You can find more international release dates here.


Watch Sexual Drive

Powered by JustWatch

 

Does content like this matter to you?


Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.

Join now!

Posted by Contributor