Poverty and debt are two traditional reasons for becoming a porn actress. But as Takahisa Zeze’s new film “The Lowlife” nonjudgmentally shows, the women who work in Japan’s giant AV (adult video) industry today may also have other, more personal motivations, though they are still social outsiders.

Based on a 2016 novel by AV actress and “gravure idol” (pin-up girl) Mana Sakura, “The Lowlife” focuses on three women who enter or encounter the world of AV. Seeing it at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, where it screened in the Competition section, I found it a hard sit: Its heroines are relentlessly shamed, with little in the way of redemption or hope.

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