I think that Netflix needs to supply its users with a little more in the way of synopses, when my cursor hovered over Flower and Snake (2005) a slightly tawdry but ultimately (I thought) innocent blurb appeared. Something along the lines of; protagonist Shizuko’s high-powered businessman husband tends to ignore her. Lonely, she starts to fantasize about him showing sexually. Fine. Masochistically. Still…fine. Shizuko is kidnapped by a crime lord as payment for hubby’s debts and while held hostage she is tortured…Hmm…and she likes it! (Punctuation, Netflix) Ok, I’ll check it out.
Once the movie began, the words Tokyo Shock flashed across the screen. Being vaguely aware of what people find shocking in Tokyo, the first wave of unease overtook me. Quickly, I discovered that I cannot stomach much of the Tokyo-version of shock. I will tell you honestly that Flower and Snake was stopped at the halfway point and then fast-forwarded through to the end. This is undoubtedly a torture-porn film and director Takashi Ishii pulls no punches. Or strangleholds. Or forced consumption of, oh, well you get the point.
If you are familiar with Ishii you may know him by another designation: Japanese sexploitation guru. Shame on me for not researching a director prior to my movie-viewing experience. I’m sure I’ll make the same mistake again. Anyway, if sexploitation is the name of the game, then Ishii is most definitely the MVP. In the name of decency I won’t outline the details of what happened on the torture stage that Shizuko ultimately inhabits for the length of Flower and Snake. A few highlights though: a crucifix, cross-dressing in children’s costumes, face masks á la Eyes Wide Shut, an IV bag and a white horse.
Anyway, the parts leading up to the torture are pretty entertaining, as Flower and Snake is shot in a highly stylized cinema style reminiscent of Japanese cartoons. At the outset, Ishii establishes the hell out of Shizuko’s hidden, dirty mind with lots of fantasy sequences. Once that scene is set, he quickly brings in the Rent-A-Center Asian thugs to spin some sketchy story about how Shizuko’s hubby owes them some money. The plot gets hustled along to the torture stage as quickly as possible, leaving a myriad of insensible bread crumbs for viewers to try to follow.
This movie is gross-out shocking and misogynistic shocking but not surprise shocking. It is predictable in that the plot essentially falls off after Shizuko’s abduction and morphs into the Faces of Death mold. Bodily harm and sexual degradation can be dug up on any number of distasteful internet sites so why would someone dress it up as cinema and ask you to pay to watch? It’s shocking.
– Written by Kelli