According to Eiren (Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan), 581 Japanese films were released domestically last year, many of which were low-budget productions shown in small numbers of theaters. Beneath these films "officially" recognized by Eiren is a substratum of straight-to-DVD fare. And at the very bottom is shot-in-an-afternoon porn that will never even see the inside of a Tsutaya rental store.

Eiji Uchida's scabrous black comedy "Lowlife Love" ("Gesu no Ai") explores the bottom layers of the industry, populated by rebels, failures, wannabes and gangsters, based on what Uchida, who also wrote the script, has seen and heard in his years in the business. Since its premiere in last year's Tokyo International Film Festival, the film has stirred up controversy (some occasioned by a column I wrote for this newspaper) for digging where few had dug before and uncovering all sorts of bad behavior, much of which has to do with abusive or manipulative sex.

Some of the film's treatment of women is frankly disturbing, but it also has the ring of truth, for all its comic exaggeration. When your shovel turns over dirt, you're more likely to see worms than butterflies, no? The film's director hero is also its premier "lowlife." Having made one indie film years ago, Tetsuo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) is struggling to get the second under way, while avoiding that dire fate — a real job.