Red Restraint

Original title
Akai Sokubaku
Japanese title
  • 赤い束縛
Running time
74 minutes
21 September 2005
Red Restraint


Acting is an area in which mainstream Japanese movies so often open themselves up to criticism. It is a particular joy, then, to stumble across such enthralling performances as the ones showcased in this standout example of the kind of works that occasionally emerge from the field of jishu eiga - self-produced, do-it-yourself projects by budding filmmakers with little other training ground for their talents.

A short feature shot on video and first exhibited at the Cineastes Organisation Osaka EX (or CO2) festival held by Planet Studyo + 1 and the city of Osaka, with only an amateur cast and little in the way of budget to work with, director Karatsu admirably plays to his strengths. Rather than overstretching himself with slick visuals and technical experimentation, he focuses on character and narrative.

Karatsu is lucky to have such a magnetic lead as Goto in front of the camera, playing the role of Arai. An incorrigible schmoozer, Arai works as a freelance web-designer, his work and his private life all but indivisible to the outsider as he flits between clients and his numerous girlfriends, all of whom remain blissfully unaware of one another. Graced with an almost overbearing charm and good humour, Arai is a hit with everyone in his social circles, but his true intentions remain unfathomable behind his impervious smile.

Then fate brings him into the lives of Kenji and Shoko, a newly married couple whose highly conservative lifestyle, consisting of work and washing-up rotas and the occasional night out in the baseball batting cage, is the very opposite of Arai's. Shoko immediately warms to Arai as he beguiles his way into their workaday lives, but Kenji remains suspicious of his motives, even after his wife encourages him to spend more time with their charismatic new friend. When Kenji begins to suffer from chronic short-term memory loss however, the balance in relationships between the three begins to shift.

While it is easy to single out Goto for special attention due to his larger-than-life yet wholly believable onscreen creation, the drama wouldn't work without Hirahara's subtle portrayal of Shoko, the newlywed whose loyalties find themselves severely divided, and indeed all of the cast work well off one another. Video-shot works such as these often find themselves overlooked, yet simultaneously engaging, tender and achingly funny, Red Restraint is a highly compelling drama that will keep the viewer riveted from scene to scene. Karatsu certainly looks like a director to watch for in the future.