Thinking about exceptional directors for very unconventional movies, one might come up with unique characters like Lars Von Trier at first. A more quite director who matches this description is the Japanese screenplay writer, director and producer Shion Sono. His avant-garde movies usually deal with more or less ordinary people looking for themselves or having particular goals who get sucked into a more and more surreal-becoming storyline (or at least it seems that way), associated with an increase of sex and / or violence. Guilty of Romance is the third and last part of the so-called Trilogy of Hate directed by Sono. He describes the attempt of an author's wife trying to escape from a "prison called marriage" with a boring marriage and lame sex. Even though connoisseurs of Sono's movies are already familiar that it it going to end in a hard-to-get, painful self-experiece with loads of obscure characters and many different possibilities to interpretate, Guilty of Romance is Sono's most mainstream movie - compared to the other ones. In the Extended Version even more but I'll get to that.
Similar to the two prequels - Love Exposure is almost 4 hours long and Cold Fish takes a very drastic turn in the second half - the movie is based on true events (in this particular case it's based on the abstract homicide of a Prostitute in a Japanese sex trade district in the middle of the 90s). To these events, a fictional and complex drama about a relationship has been added. Although easier to understand in the context than his previous movies, Sono isn't afraid to focus on sensitive issues.
In a country with hentais, machines with girlie panties,institutions where grown men dress up as a baby and get "treated well" by "caring moms", in a country where anyone can live his sexual fantasies excessively, the "simple" sex for money concept is tolerated on the one hand but also proscribed. Furthermore, women who live their sexual lifes as they intend to do basically not exist in Japan.
Guilty of Romance is about both without - as usual in Sono movies - delivering any pros or cons. His movies were never made or intended for a huge crowd and they probably never will.
Guilty of Romance exists in two very different versions. The one that's approx. 30 minutes shorter aka the "International Version" plus a longer one called "Japanese Extended Version". Mainly with regard to the running time of the two previous movies, most reviews refer to the shorter version as adapted for Western regions when it comes to content and performance. Shion Sono on the other hand has often emphasized that this version is his prefered one; the Director's Cut so to speak. And if you examine it carefully, you'll probably come to the conclusion that it makes perfect sense.
Mainly, the Extended Version contains extended scenes that elaborate the yet very clear storyelements more detailed. Furthermore, the character of the female cop Kazuko Yoshida has much more screentime here, the audience gets to know her better. The Extended Version deals with her free-spirited sexuality in terms of cheating on her husband. But in comparison to the two leading actresses, she's much more dependent when it comes to her boyfriend.
While the more profound segments of the movie steals some kind of complexity and room for interpretation, the previously mentioned things / differences are apparently a reminiscence to the "less complex thinking audience".
The extended scene at 1:37:15 (Mitsuko, Izumi & Shoji pay Mitsuko's mother a visit) for instance makes it very clear. That Mitsuko wishes they (Izumi & Shoji) were both dead, just like her mother, kind of oozes out of every single frame of this scene. Even more, it's spoken out loud. In the following, her mom attacks with a knife which seems kind of insincere in that context. Escpecially considering that it takes some of the denouement's impact because it already points too obvious in the right direction.
Moreover, the visualization of the ongoing police investigations doesn't add anything at all to the rest of the movie and neither does the subplot with Kazuko and her lover. Best case scenario, one could say that it expresses a further aspect of female sexuality. But then again, it's totally contrary to the other two leading actresses plus it seems kind of ordinary. Probably too ordinary. Bottom line, it looks more like the Extended Version is easier to consume. Due to Kazuko's investigations, she appears to be a more "regular" character and the crime plot isn't as hard to follow as the rest of the movie. The ending of the Extended Version, which contains footage from the middle of the movie btw, leaves a completely different impression than Izumi lying on the ground. She has been bruised, beaten and humiliated and yet she has a smile on her face in the last scene of the International Version.
Longer doesn't necessarily equal better and Guilty of Romance is one of these cases. I mean don't get me wrong, the Extended Version doesn't make it worse but the alterations cause changes in the story which haven't been intended by director Sono for his favorite version. Also and especially compared to his previous movies.
But basically, one can't do anything wrong by choosing one of the versions because a stunning movie with amazing performances is what it is.
8 Extended Scenes = 30 min 7 sec (PAL)
The Extended Version begins with an additional Nikkatsu logo (not considered in the process of calculating and listing the cuts and time differences).
Kazuko is having sex in the shower with a stranger in some love hotel. When her cellphone on the bed starts ringing, she tumbles from the shower to the bed and answers the call. Then she leaves the hotel and takes a cab.
Now the pathology scene (Kazuko and her partner are being sophisticated that the body parts simply belong to one single victim, not two vics, as they assumed until then) in the Extended Version.
This scene is also at 53:22 min in the International Version (after Izumi watched Mitsuko strip for her client at the door of the room they're in at the love hotel).
Kazuko and her partner go through the crime scene details one more time. Due to the kind of crime, a murder with robbery can be ruled out. But to narrow it down, they're gonna have to figure out the actual motive first. Her partner got the files of missing women gone missing in the last 10 days and also in the last 6 months.
It's a huge number but Kazuko explains the number also contained bored housewives that simply ran off. He tells the story of a woman chasing the garbage truck with a garbage bag who ends up in a strange neighborhood. An experience that finally made her run off.
Kazuko is on her way home by train and she notices loads of women of any age all of them look bored; some more, some less. In a short vision she's having, she notices a woman in a red cocktail dress (the movie will refer to her later).
Kazuko arrives at home. It's really coming down outside. She cooks fondue with seafood, her husband is as surprised as delighted that she's home "so early" for a change. At the dinner table, Kazuko asks her daughter about school but she just plays it down. The baby-girl rather wants to hear about the new exciting case of her mom's because anyonr and everyone at school already talks about it. Kazuko explains she didn't know anything yet. Furthermore, daddy refuses to tolerate that kind of topic at dinner.
Freshly showered and ready to go to bed, Kazuko is sitting in front of a mirror in the bedroom. Then her cellphone starts ringing. Her slightly drunk affair wants to see her immediately but she doesn't want to receive any calls after 9 p.m. and he's very well aware of that. That's why he humiliates her on the phone by calling her names like "slut" and "his slave". At the same time, he's making her horny by saying very dirty things on the phone. Kazuko masturbates a bit until her husband in the shower asks her for shampoo.
Her lover explains to Kazuko that he was right in front of her house. She seems to be thunderstruck when she's looking out of the window. Then she rushes into the kitchen with some clothes on and explains to her daughter, who's still sitting there, that she's going to take out the trash. Being outside, she immediately gets in her lover's car starts kissing him passionately. He says she'd done well and he liked her that way.
6 min 57 sec
Kazuko arrives at home and notices a second pair of me shoes in the hall. She enters the kitchen where her husband is sitting at the table with a friend. He's already eaten. Then her husband states she'd come home early recently and she seems kind of caring to which Kazuko bashfully responds that he made it sound like she'd never do any housework at all.
Her husband gets up to get a bottle of whine. Kazuko hastily offers to get it herself but her husband refuses. When Kazuko is alone in the kitchen with her husband's friend, it turns out that the so-called friend of her husband is actually her lover. He starts to hassle her verbally and physically which is really unpleasant for her for obvious reasons. He explains that contrary to her he didn't give a damn when their affair came to light because he was single. Then he pushes her to kiss him. Kazuko gives in for a moment, then they hear her husband return.
The husband gets back to the table and tells about Kazuko encountering another woman who stabbed herself in front of her and that she'd had a bag full of recently-bought groceries in it. And it really makes him think that the woman said some nice last words about her husband.
Kazuko visits the crime scene / the place where the body was found. She notices a rolled-up red carpet. She unrolls it on the wooden floor and lies down on it. After a while she calls her lover. He humiliates her one more time and makes her start masturbating to it again. In some kind of erotic vision, she sees the woman in the red cocktail dress again. Then she starts remembering the moment when the young woman from her husband's story killed herself in front of her.
In the flashback, the young woman passes a square before she reaches for a knife at a post and suddenly rams the knife in her body. Kazuko rushes to her as fast as possible. She removes the knife from her body and sinks to the ground. Kazuko holds the dying woman in her arms but she's mostly worried about her cellphone because she doesn't want her husband to find out about the affairs. So she asks Kazuko to smash it and so she does. The young woman also explains to her that she was an idiot because she loved her husband and she'd just bought the new clothes to look attractive for him.
Then she dies. Kazuko looks around for the approaching ambulance and puts the smashed cellphone in her pocket.
Now an intercut to Mitsuko sleeping with her client while Izumi keeps watching from the door. Mitsuko wants her to watch closely. Cut to Kazuko still lying on the red carpet. In her vision, the woman with the red dress is sitting on top of her and strangling her with both hands. She also wants Kazumi to kill HER. Kazumo finally manages to kick her off. Then Kazumi sits on her and starts strangling her. The woman seems to have reached her goal and keeps saying she wanted to get killed while Kazumi keeps strangling her. But then she wakes up so to speak and looks around.
11 min 4 sec
Mitsuko explains to Izumi that tears also had a "body" that represents their true meaning and one needed to know it. She also states Izumi had used loads of words like love or sin lately but it didn't mean anything to mean. Not yet anyway.
1 min 16 sec
Mitsuko makes a little fun of Izumi's lack of understanding. She's got a cry for help all written over her forehead. She adds she was going to explain it to her with full use of physical strength because some things simpley couldn't be explained with words. Izumi on the other hand seems to believe she was losing her mind and that a new her was taking over which scared her. Mitsuko says Izumi was confused because her body didn't follow her words yet but it would at some point. They want to put everything in words, step by step. And the code wird for that is supposed to be "The Castle".
1 min 53 sec
Mitsuko talks about a client who reminds her very much of her dad which is why she has mixed feelings when she's taking his money. Her mom suddenly jumps up rapidly and runs out of the room to get a knife. Back in the dining room, she grabs her daughter and wants to kill her but then she just breaks down in tears. She yells why her daughter hadn't died with her ill-fated dad to which Mitsuko agrees with a smile.
Izumi is shocked, she just can't believe what she just heard. But then Mitsuko drags her out of the room. Maniacly laughing Shoji and her mom (still crying on the floor) stay behind.
Cut to the police station. Her partner spreads the pictures of the women gone missing in the last ten days in front of her. There's also a profile of Mitsuko among them. He asks what woman's intuition is telling her. She explains callgirls were working with a false ID, the profiles usually bogus and the company domicile hard to figure out. Her partner says she was very well informed but just keeps talking due to his own past. Kazuko wants to know what he thought about her if she was one of them as well. Her partner considers that impossible, Kazuko explains he had to become more open-minded if they wanted to succeed.
Kazuko and her partner canvass the area near the love hotel and show pictures of the women recently gone missing but no one is cooperating. At least most of them let Kazuko and her partner pass to show the pictures to the girls. None of the women on the pictures can be recognized but a few callgirls cease the moment to expose themselves.
Finally, Kazuko's partner gets a call from forensics when he's in a club. The victim has been identified.
5 min 37 sec
Kazuko and her partner storm a club but everyone in there has already vanished.
Subsequently, they're having a chat with Izumi's husband Shizu who explains that his wife behaves very odd now and then and that she'd already been gone for a few days several times. He cannot believe under any circumstances that she was working as a prostitute called "Yoko".
Kazuko looks down and notices some red splashes of color on the carpet. She interrupts the conversation and leaves, her irritated partner follows. Shizu thanks them and smiles after they left.
1 min 34 sec
The International Version contains "regular" end credits. Meaning: rolling end credits in front of a black background.
In the Extended Version, the end credits are being dealt with during an extended scene. First Izumi lying on the ground for a few more seconds. Cut to Kazuko's appartment after a short black screen. At the appartment, she's having breakfast with her husband. They're discussing the case that's more or less closed. Suddenly Kazuko's cellphone starts ringing. She makes no move to answer the call. When her husband points to the ringing phone, she even pushes the ignore button. Her husband wants to know what happened if that was one of her colleagues but she replies it didn't care. Now her husband is wuite impressed. Meanwhile, the garbage removal has arrived outside. Kazuko remembers she didn't take out the trash. She reaches for the two bags and runs.
In the following, Kazuko chases the garbage truck she just can't catch up with. When she finally stops, she realizes she's in an entirely different district: the love hotel district. Even worse, she's right in front of the house Mitsuko always used to sleep with her client.
She looks around when her cellphone rings again. It's her lover and he wants to know where she was at the moment. Kazuko replies with a resigning "I don't know".
1 min 2 sec (Extended Version longer)