The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief


Reviewed by: Chris

The world of hosting is little known outside of Japan, that of glamorous host boys even less. Jake Clennell's mind-boggling documentary is so hypnotic that single young men may want to take notes, and those who are partnered do the same to learn how better to please the female psyche.

The 'hosts' in any of ten exclusive clubs in Osaka only make money if they can be charming and engaging while selling champagne at $500 a bottle. Although there are maybe 100 host clubs, most of them provide female companions for light conversation, company, and laughter (not necessarily sex - which is generally provided from a number of different establishments). Issei, however, presides over a Cafe Rakkyo club, where glamorous host boys, not women, do the entertaining. They make beautiful young women laugh, smile and feel good about themselves - women who pay very handsomely for the pleasure. They party till they drop, women competing with each other for the host boys' attention by spending more money.

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"For girls, we are products," says Issei. "We have fake love relationships," and he compares his job to that of Peter Pan, who took people to a world that doesn't exist. "We sell dreams - that's our job." We witness candid interviews with the host boys, including a new lad being interviewed for a job, and also a number of the good-looking young women who frequent the host bars. They confess to how they fall in love with Issei. He, in return, says how although he may have sex with the girls, he often tries not to if that's their aim, because afterwards they are more likely to 'dump him.' Some of these customers have been coming to the club for several years. They pay by the hour for the attention of one of the host boys at the 24 hour party room, but he will often be in demand by several women at once. If a woman wants to speak to a host privately, there is a special chair at extra cost ($50). Issei earns about $50,000 a month. He says the thing that stops him earning more is that he cares about his clients and won't let them spend too much money just for the sake of it. He talks about 'healing' his customers

Why do the girls come? "When I'm at a host club, I'm treated like a princess," says one. When they have been coming for a year or more, they often look to their chosen host for good advice. A girl never changes host within a club, so a long term 'relationship' of sorts develops. In this high-octane party atmosphere girls spend $1,000 or more in a single day. Issei says the highest was 40,000. "It's about how much girls want to financially worship me," he says. "He listens to me, he entertains me. That makes me really happy," she explains. We see some of the host boys out in the street persuading girls to come for a drink in the club. They have the charisma of TV personalities. The rapid fire conversation and banter is expertly aimed to make the girls smile and feel magnetically drawn to them. In a way it is quite selfless (if highly paid!) and Issei explains that if a host really develops personal needs in relation to a customer then he can't be effective as a host.

One customer explains how she would be prepared to die for Issei. "To a certain extent, money can buy love," he tells the interviewer with a calm conviction that is slightly unnerving. Only later in the film do we find out more about the girls and how many of them play an equally dangerous game.

The subject matter, the honesty and insight of the interviews, and the dervishlike way the winning lines are so hard to explain away, together with a very sure documentary hand that inserts no moral judgements, make The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief an unforgettable piece of film-making.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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An exploration of Japanese host bars.

Director: Jake Clennell

Year: 2006

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: US, Japan

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