The Japanese "av" industry is their world of porn. They have their own stars and popular series, their own Ginger Lynn (jeeez I'm dating myself here),okay, uhhh, their own Jenna Jameson, their own subculture of adult video. Bastoni: The Stick Handlers (2002) was made by some filmmakers who had worked in the av industry and decided to make a comic tale revolving around this genre.
Yamguchi and Natsuo are two star porn performs who met and fell in love. After Natsuo got pregnant, she decides to leave the industry, embarking on a few farewell films before calling it quits. But, the pull of knowing no other career lifestyle is strong, especially when you agree to have cameras in your home to further maximize the popularity of "the porn stars who fell in love." Over their fan message board, Natsuo meets Miyuki, one of Tamguchi's ex-girlfriends who has embarked on a mission to debunk his marriage. Miyuki fibs to Natsuo, saying she is a fan and arranging a meeting, meanwhile she has become a porn actress with the sole intent of being in a scene with Yamaguchi and seeing if he still has feelings for her.
Bastoni is a nice quirky film with some amusing moments and a an interesting subject matter. It's real fault is in lack of a solid narrative. It would be fine just to be an assemblage of revealing comic/dramatic scenes of these characters in this quirky industry, if only it didn't suddenly take a turn in the last ten-fifteen minutes to wrap things up. In the first few minutes we see Miyuki and learn her connection to Yamaguchi, but then it is a good hour before we see her again, and then not until the finale that the triangle between her Yamaguchi and Natsuo causes some friction. In addtion to Yamaguchi and Natsuo's relationship, the rest of the film is sort of padded with incidental scenes of the other performers, two young rookies, a married star with a seemingly perfect, normal family, and a producer losing sales because his av scenarios aren't what the audience wants. Each one of these stories are fine, but really they didn't add too much and feel like incomplete diversions from what the films focus should be, the Yamaguchi-Natsuo-Miyuki triangle. It is funny, as I was writing the description, I realized, when you add up the scenes, how little of the film actually involves that triangle plotting, yet it is the films real culmination in terms of narrative drive.
While a light movie, it doesn't shy away from the more extreme aspects of the industry it revolves around. While there is some standard R-rated sex and nudity, but the film goes unrated due to one scene of Natsuo's final porn video. In the scene, while dressed in her bridal gown, she ascends a staircase to Yamaguchi, her waiting husband. But, on each step is a blue jockey clad man whom she performs oral sex on, including bukkake. But, the scene is played to show their comfort with their profession and leans toward laughs with the faux ministers comments, like, "A bridal shower never looked better."
The DVD: TLA
Picture: Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. Colors appear a little muddy some scenes, like the too yellowed grass a soccer field. The fleshtones seem okay, from Yamaguchi tanning bed hue to Natsuo's pale pallor. Overall it is a pretty grungy image, often soft and grainy. Some of this obviously from being a low budget film, the rest from a less than stellar transfer unfortunately saddled with a hefty retail price. A bit compressed.
Sound: 2.0 Mono Japanese with English Subtitles. Pretty run of the mill audio. Mono, no real dynamics. Just gets the job done.
Extras: Chapter Selections--- TLA Release Trailers.
Conclusion: The middling/basic quality of the transfer may ward off some buyers. But for those that don't mind a no-frills DVD of an interesting little marginal film (that probably isn't going to see the light in a better transfers anytime soon), it should still satisfy. Still, I wish it were in the lower price range, which would justify a purchase of this offbeat film.