The Great Happiness Space Jake Clennell

Human relations are experienced at their most exploitive in this heartbreaking documentary about the lower depths of Osaka. The subject is the phenomenon of "host” clubs — places where young women can buy the company of young men who will befriend them, gain their trust and affection, and then manipulate them into spending thousands of dollars a night. They are very good at their jobs and they make anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000 a month; they’re also preying on very vulnerable people starved for affection. The knife turns further; it turns out that most of the women are either already prostitutes looking to unwind or women who turn to prostitution in order to finance their hugely expensive stabs at happiness. But the clients can be just as exploitative as the workers, all of them convinced that they will be the one to nab their favourite man and lead him away to romantic paradise. Nobody gets away clean. The simplification of human relationships is what this movie is about, and how people who are confused as to how to acquire or give affection can trap themselves in artificial situations that do nobody any emotional good. Whatever the financial profit of hosting, it’s said that none of the employees last more than a year; by film’s end, we bear witness to one of the more philosophical hosts, burned out and sobbing over the crash course in loneliness he’s been given. This film could have been one more cheap essay in the weirdness of Japan, but instead director Jake Clennell has drawn a picture of urban life that speaks beyond borders to the difficulties of alienation and the lengths to which people will go for companionship. (Mongrel Media)