On the eve of the 21st Century, in a rainswept back alley of Tokyo's Maruyama-cho Love Hotel district, a horrific discovery is made. Inside an abandoned apartment building, its walls spattered in pink paint and inscribed (in human blood) with the graffito 'castle', are two grotesque bodies, combining the parts of showroom dummies with the grisly off-cuts of a single female corpse whose head, limbs and sexual organs are missing.
As homicide detective Kazuko (Mizuno Miki) begins investigating, we might imagine that we are watching a gaudily neon-lit neo-noir - yet while writer-director Shiono Son's mystery certainly keeps us guessing both who done it and to whom, he is far more interested in anatomising the split identities and conflicted desires of his female characters, making Guilty of Romance more like an erotic thriller, with the odd deviation into melodrama.
Could the murder victim be Izumi (Kagurazaka Megumi), whose face we first see on a wall of missing persons notices at the police station? Flashbacks reveal that this prim young housewife is given over to serving the perfectionist needs of her husband, the romance novelist Yukio (Tsuda Kanji). Still, an undefined yearning for something more leads Izumi to play belle de jour, venturing surreptitiously into softcore pornshoots and promiscuous acts of infidelity. Eventually she meets Mitsuko (Togashi Makoto) who, though older and more advanced in her depravity, is divided and ruled by similar contradictions: by day a respected professor of English at an elite university, and by night an insatiable prostitute on a quest for an unattainable fulfilment that she terms 'castle' (after Kafka's novel). Under Mitsuko's tutelage, Izumi is soon sinking lower and lower on her ruinous path to licence and liberation - and we know that, one way or another, things are going to end very badly.
Guilty Of Romance [DVDRip]