Archive | March, 2011

The Great Happiness Space (2006)

15 Mar

Subtitle: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief

I have been watching a lot of documentaries lately on Instant Queue, but this one struck me because there are a lot of intricacies to the story they tell that surprised me. It might be easy to write off some of the oddities of the accounts being told by saying that it is something that happens in a different culture. And while I don’t see exact parallels between the Japanese institution of the host club and something similar in US or “Western” culture, I still see many similarities that we all share as human animals who want love, but perhaps do not know exactly what that love is.

The Great Happiness Space opens a window for outsiders into the Host Clubs of Osaka Japan, and specifically on one of the most popular and lucrative ones, Rakkyo. Host Clubs are establishments (almost like bars) where men offer their company to women for very high prices. (Although there are probably equivalents to this for the homosexual community, this documentary did not address that at all). When a woman enters a club for the first time, she chooses her Host from the “Host menu,” and becomes his client. Women may choose from funny Hosts, or fashionable Hosts, outgoing Hosts, etc. These hosts entertain and accompany the women through karaoke, conversation, joke-telling and a lot of drinking and smoking.  The women pay an hourly price for the company of their Host, and in addition pay extremely steep prices for the drinks, especially champagne. Some women spend upwards of $7,000 per night (yes, that figure is in US dollars), and many women frequent these clubs 2-3 times per week.

While watching the film I found myself wondering what these women do for a living that can afford such lavish nights out on a regular basis. I figured that they must have some pretty amazing corporate positions that make them a lot of money but allow them no time for a boyfriend, which leads them to look for companionship through these clubs. About a third of the way through the film, they reveal that the majority of these women are in the same profession, and I was way off with my guess.

Hosts and clients are both interviewed and featured in this documentary, and their candid and open interviews offer a very honest look into the lives they both lead. The film left me feeling very sad, as I feel that there is a lot of confusion on both sides after years of spending ridiculous amounts of money, drinking their livers into a pulp, playing with emotions, putting up fronts, and trying to figure out who they really even are anymore. It reminded me how manipulative humans can be within love and relationships and especially when there is money involved and it is a job and not necessarily any kind of real or functional relationship at all.

I think this film is great, and I learned a lot from it. I love it when documentaries take you to a taboo or seldom-seen and unfamiliar place, and expose nearly every facet to such a space. However, it did leave me feeling a bit of heartache for the characters involved, who want to find love, or at least say they do, but seem to be unsure what that even means and where to find it. There was a lot of sacrifice of the self for the benefit of another without much reciprocation, and it really saddened me to see the ways that people manipulate one another and destroy themselves in the pursuit of happiness. This is something with which many of us are at least marginally familiar. I think it can bring a positive message to the viewer as well, to be aware of others’ behaviors and intentions before giving yourself over to another completely. I believe that there is a need for humans to trust and love one another, but until we are all on board with this sentiment, it is best to proceed with caution and love yourself first.

Sorry to get all philosophical or whatever that was.

I would watch it again, maybe I would buy it. I give it an A-.