Wednesday, April 11, 2007

La Maison de Himiko (Isshin Inudou 2005)

La Maison de Himiko (Isshin Inudou 2005)
Rating: 7.6

In his article “The Social Situation Facing Gays in Japan,” Sunagawa Hideki discusses how the young people of today seemingly have an easier time dealing with and accepting their sexuality than previous generations did. He goes on to explain that the Gay Boom, the proliferation of activist groups and human rights organizations as well as classroom education have influenced the public toward a more positive social outlook towards homosexuality in general. Hideki conversely discusses the flip side of the coin where oppression still exists, gay men are targets of youth gang violence, and young men face inner battles of self acceptance.
Isshin Inudou’s film La Maison de Himiko (2005) portrays varying representations of both old and young gay men and accepting and oppressive heterosexual members of society. Himiko, a former owner of a gay night club, retires and opens a retirement home for gay men. Perhaps with the exception of Yamazaki, the older men are very comfortable with their self identity and sexuality. We most obviously conclude this based on the costuming of the characters. The elderly gay men wear a colorful palette of bright robes, dresses, and other clothing to represent their self confidence. Ruby even adorns a pink wig. To contrast this, Saori, a heterosexual character wears mostly black, white, or earth tone colors throughout.
Yamazaki, however is an example of what Hideki was discussing. He has been embarrassed to wear a dress, even in front of his friends at the closed gay community they live in. Saori becomes the first person to see his bedroom which is lavishly decorated and contains several dresses he has designed. Yamazaki even comments that he will “wear a dress in his coffin which will be his first and last, so he won’t have to look in the mirror and regret how he looks.”
Saori goes through an interesting character arc in the film. Initially she is disgusted by the group of men at the retirement home, but eventually she warms up to them after getting to know each one as humanized individuals rather than part of a stigmatized group. She offers her nonexistent inheritance to help save La Maison de Himiko and be able to keep Ruby at the home after his stroke in one scene. In another scene when Yamazaki is being mocked by a former coworker after it is discovered Yamazaki is a “queen,” Saori yells at the man, demanding he apologize. Despite her friendships and understanding she still cannot fully accept their choices. In the end she accuses them of having selfish homo-egos for abandoning their families and causing suffering for their loved ones and never really allows
her father, Himiko to have any sort of redemption before his death.
Lastly the film represents a group of young juvenile delinquents who are constantly pestering the gay men and vandalizing the house. This subject is treated a little more lightly than it could be as Hideki mentions that a number of deaths occur from gang violence towards gays. In the film the young boys are comically chased off after being sprayed by a hose. Later Haruhiko repeatedly slaps one of the boys until they are scared away. This same boy later shows remorse for his actions and begins to work for Haruhiko.

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