If it was possible to craft an adequate description of Kôta Yoshida’s Sexual Drive in a sentence, I would try to verbally extract the portrayals of passion from Ryusuke Hamagachi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and have them regurgitated by Kantaro, the dessert fanatic in Netflix’s Sweet Tooth Salaryman. Having ordinary people acting out to primordial desire in semi-comedic fashion just about summarizes Sexual Drive‘s mission. In Yoshida’s line of sex-infused movies (others include The Torture Club and Onna no Ana, which are about BDSM and alien pregnancy respectively), it’s amusing that Sexual Drive, the most explicitly titled, does not contain any nudity. However, eroticism of a different nature is through the roof.
There are three stories in Sexual Drive with two recurrent cast members: Kurita (Tateo Serizawa), whose Serkis-like mischievous face was made to make every character uncomfortable, and innocent food in top-gratuitous shape. I may have missed something, but it’s unclear if Kurita is a real person or a troll manifestation spurted from sexual frustration who berates unsatisfied citizens. In all three stories, Kurita arrives slightly disheveled in a black suit and carrying a box of chestnuts (the item that seems to ground his existence to reality). “Natto,” named after a fermented soybean snack, is about Enatsu, who is confronted by Kurita’s revelation that Kurita had had an affair with his wife, Mayumi, when Kurita was a patient at the hospital she works at. Enatsu is in constant disbelief, even when Kurita dishes specific details, such as their marriage’s five-year sex drought. What was initiated as a polite, informative visit turns vile when Kurita discovers a bowl of unfinished natto in the trash and begins to vulgarly describe his encounters with Mayumi. Enatsu loses his shit, passes out, and wakes up to Mayumi coming back from her shift at the hospital. She inquires about the box of chestnuts left on the table, which implies that Kurita’s visit was real (also, almost irrelevantly, chestnuts in Japanese is kuri). He doesn’t bring up the allegations. When Enatsu then watches Mayumi eat natto, we finally visualize Sexual Drive‘s mission as well as the national dream: food porn.
Kurita’s verbal havoc continues to rain on the next two stories. In “Mapo Tofu,” he traces his masochist origins to Uehara, the woman who hits him with a car on her way of obtaining the mapo tofu special. He recognizes her as his childhood bully, though she vehemently denies it. While he was just hit by a car, and he could be accusing a random woman, Kurita strikes a chord when he tells Uehara that she should make mapo tofu from scratch to truly satisfy that sin. What his words means to her, regardless of the truth or history, really is a set-up for a scene of decadent gluttony. And, if there’s anything to speak of Kurita, it’s that he really has some sadistic gall.
Sexual Drive‘s voice is disguised as serious, but when you are cornered by someone soberly wielding a balloon sword and there is nowhere else to turn, somehow laughing is the best escape. It’s not overtly sexual, and it’s also not inexplicable as food porn. In “Ramen with Extra Back Fat,” there is more of a humanistic conflict between Momoka, a woman who was stood up at a bar and decides to lustfully eat ramen at a shop, and Ikeyama, a businessman who stood Momoka up and now has Kurita in his earpiece describing the sensation of eating ramen. For those who demand an explanation at the end of this movie, there isn’t one. But a waste of time Sexual Drive is not. Yes, the steam from ramen can perhaps be as emotionally impactful as crying. Maybe Japan has spoken; we need to think about the intersectionality between food and sex, as their identities are not solely exclusive. Give us the sadistic mapo tofu.
dir. Kôta Yoshida
Now available digitally and on demand.