White Lily is the 5th film (Project 5) coming from the Japanese studio Nikkatsu’s reboot of the famed Roman Porno series. These soft-core films otherwise known as “Pink Films” peaked in Japan in the 1970’s and 80’s. Directed by Hideo Nakata who is famous for the Horror Ring franchise, he entered the Nikkatsu film studios in the 80’s. During this time, he worked on several Roman Porno movies; by staying true to the original formula shooting on a tight budget and schedule he made White Lily.
White Lily revolves around a young woman Haruka and her relationship with her sensei Tokiko, a well-respected successful ceramic artist. Haruka is not only Tokiko’s apprentice, she teaches Tokiko’s students as well as working as her personal assistant. At home which is also within the confines of the ceramic studio where most of the film takes place, Haruka cooks, cleans and attends to Tokiko’s every need including her sexually. Haruka believes this is a form of love, even if this means being patient with Tokiko while she sleeps with other men and accepting her drinking problems. Through flashbacks you understand how this relationship became a norm. Haruka fell in to Tokiko’s lap when she came to seek refuge at the ceramic studio, running away from her past. Tokiko on the other hand was going through the loss of her fiancée.
Haruka is willing to do anything for Tokiko and vowed never to leave her even though Tokiko decides to take in young and handsome Satoru as her new apprentice much to Haruka’s disapproval. This was the beginning of a twisted codependent relationship that ends in a complicated and climatic struggle of love that is painful for everyone involved.
The film may not exactly cater to all lesbians, it’s not your girl meets girl, girls fall in love in a cute way, girl is unsure of her sexuality and feelings. This “lesbian” relationship between Haruka and Tokiko involves sex with men, willing and unwillingly. Tokiko abuses Haruka mentally and sexually, at times it was uncomfortable to watch.
I went in without expecting a “typical” lesbian film. The beauty of this film comes about in a form of close up shots of the girls’ fingers, arousing the audience by their fragile yet skillful use of their smooth movements to create a beautiful ceramic art piece. The way they use their fingers making the ceramic pieces, smoothly blend in with the intimate scene of Haruka and Tokiko making love. Sex is their way of showing they care for each other, Haruka submissive and loyal and Tokiko the dominant, seeking sex whenever she wants, with whoever she wants. The relationship seems to work until Satoru moves in with them.
The simple setting between the temple and the ceramic studio moves the action along at a good pace and less than 15 minutes in, the sex begins. It’s not a long film and I don’t think the film takes itself too seriously but it does try a little too hard to be a “love story”. It is however more a journey of sexual discovery and personal growth for Haruka. And for Tokiko she’s struggling with grief trying to find a way accept love again, neglecting the people closes to her. The climatic scene where all the characters come together was not a surprise and it became too twisted and cliché for me but fortunately the film does resolve with both females exactly realising what they want and finally making the right choices for themselves. This film is a well-directed, well-acted with beautiful actresses and it kept me entertained and interested in most parts.
Do go in with an open mind!
Word: Sophia Shek