The Great Happiness Space

Director: Jake Clennell
Year: 2006
Country: UK
Running time: 76 mins

Photography: Jake Clennell
Editor: Hisayo Kushida
Sound: Evan Benjamin
Music: Robert Coyne
In Japanese with English subtitles
M offensive language, sexual themes

Festivals: Slamdance, Edinburgh 2006

This intriguing documentary offers a rare insight into the world of Japan’s host clubs, bars in which the lonely find companionship over expensive cocktails and karaoke. The film focuses on a young male host, Issei, who runs the wildly successful and stylish Café Rakkyo in Osaka, and his clients, who are not the middle-aged businessmen (or women) of popular cliché, but young girls. These girls pay through the nose to socialise with their favourite hosts, who look like they’ve just stepped out of a New Romantic music video, circa 1984. Director Jake Clennell penetrates the superficial glamour of the milieu in a series of astonishingly candid interviews with hosts and clients, expertly juxtaposed to explore the complicated psychology of their emotional and financial transactions. The bravado with which Issei expresses himself at the beginning of the film – “once she’s in love, she’s hooked” – is steadily undercut by his own increasingly personal confessions, and by the ambivalent testimonials of his supposed love victims. From beneath the glitz, a wealth of moving personal stories emerge.