directed by Jake Clennell (2006)
The Great Happiness Space (which I came across on Netflix instant) uncovers the odd, excessive, depressing world of Host Boys in Osaka, Japan. Basically young call boys/escorts for young wealthy women, they lure passersby into exclusive clubs, offering much needed flirty attention while racking up huge champagne bills.
Most of the young men interviewed make more than $10,000 a month, with Issei, the charming but admittedly messed up 22 owner of Club Rakkyo taking in more than $50,000. Both the hosts and their clients refer to it as being “financially worshipped”.
The film unfolds different aspects of the business revealing more and more complexities as it goes on. After meeting the ultra groomed Host Boys, we meet the women who pay exorbitant amounts of money to experience faux relationships with them. Many claim to genuinely love Issei and hope for the day they can become his girlfriend out of the clubs.
It’s sad, but at the same time they seem happy with the arrangement and it makes you wonder: if a pair of shoes can cost a fortune, is it so wrong that the one thing that most people crave the most: companionship, affection, love shouldn’t also be something worth spending for if you so please?
But, then the film takes a turn again when we learn that most of the women who come to the clubs can only afford to do so because they themselves are call girls and prostitutes, making for a strange self perpetuating cycle of manufactured love. It’s especially sad to learn that some women are only struggling through the horrors of prostitution solely in order to come to the host clubs and experience fleeting, champagne filled moments of happiness. The underlying severe loneliness effects the boys too who reveal themselves to be just as in need of real human compassion but are stuck in the empty job of pretending to love women for money.
Filmmaker Jake Clennell paints a fascinating portrait of this world in a short time without ever injecting himself or his own judgement. Too often new documentarians are more interested in their own journeys than their subjects. A cinematographer mainly, Clennell has a gift for documentaries and should make more!