The paradox of pornography is this: on one level it’s the most rawly functional of film genres, serving an overwhelming primary purpose, to which all other values are subordinate. It’s possible to be entertained by the dialogue or the costumes in a porn film, but neither of those things is exactly the point. The most popular form of porn is “gonzo,” shot on hand-held cameras in pre-existing locations and dispensing with all plot. On another level, though, pornography is extremely specific. The sheer volume of porn on the market attests to the seemingly infinite permutations of human sexual desire. Each person has something special he or she wants to see, and there is a piece of pornography out there with his or her name on it; all that remains is to search it out. The acquisition of that perfect erotic image is the quest that animates all porn viewers, from the most idle browser to the most obsessive collector.

IKU is pornography for sci-fi and computer nerds. It opens with an expository text-crawl parodying Blade Runner, describing a future society in which renegade pleasure robots mingle with humans, extracting information through sexual contact. Even this minimal plot, though, seems too much for the filmmakers to sustain. It’s never referenced again.

The film contains five sex scenes. Each features a different girl, but digital effects and on-screen text indicate that she is actually the same girl, the sex robot Reiko, taking different forms. There’s a lot of digital tweaking done to the footage in IKU. Since it’s a Japanese movie (almost the entire cast is Asian—only three non-Asians appear, and only one merits a sex scene), Japanese porn guidelines are in place, which means that any and all penetration must be hidden. In this case, it’s sometimes done with a sort of mosaic-tile overlay, which is mercifully brief, and other times with a strategically placed bright light reminiscent of the gleam seen in toothpaste commercials.

During the few minutes at the beginning and end of each scene, it’s possible to focus on the world IKU’s creators have envisioned. It’s not a bad one, actually. It’s not as deliberately grimy and rain-streaked as Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, and at times looks remarkably like a mix of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express and the Tokyo described in William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. Most of the time though, a mixture of budgetary constraints and excessively hyperactive quick-cutting, not to mention the overuse of fisheye lenses and surveillance angles, make it look like an X-rated episode of Max Headroom.

It’s clear that the filmmakers felt the addition of a high-tech sheen would somehow vault their little movie (it’s only 74 minutes long) above the morass of mainstream porn. They were wrong, though. Porn is porn, and in this case the extra effort expended only serves to make the final product vaguely embarrassing. It’s as if the producers were ashamed of what they were up to, and thought they could disguise it by blanketing the thing with the trappings of science fiction.

Phil Freeman

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