A sexless husband questions his wife’s lover about a pack of natto. A nervous driver on his way to buy mapo sauce finds her panic attack turn into a burst of passion when she collides with an old classmate. And a married man obeys puzzling instructions to rescue his lover after she is kidnapped from a window shop.
These three encounters form the wry Japanese triptych ‘Sexual Drive’, directed by Kota Yoshida. Consistently intriguing and at times hilarious, the film does not depict sex itself. Instead, the characters eat foods that become objects of excitement, lust, and pleasure: the sticky gunk surrounding soybeans, chili oil sizzling in a wok.
A man named Kurita (Tateto Serizawa) appears in every vignette as a mysterious narrator spinning tales of fornication that – however disturbing and perhaps untrue – manage to arouse his counterparts to their own desires. In two of the stories, Kurita is in conversation with men, so the film pays a disproportionate amount of attention to the male libido. There are only so many examples of male characters bragging about sexual conquest or moaning in shame for being cheated on.
But in the best of the three parts, called “Mapo Tofu”, a woman takes center stage. While driving to the grocery store, the frightened Akane (Honami Sato) runs into Kurita, whom she used to bully in elementary school, and his memories of that time rekindle her taste for spices. At a short 70 minutes, “Sexual Drive” might have benefited more women who had their appetites, especially since the erotica is such a fascinating new flavor.
Not judged. In Japanese, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV providers.