I.K.U. (2000) Movie Review

“I.K.U.” is written and directed by Shu Lea Cheang — who, if my name recognition skills is correct, is Chinese — but declares itself to be “a Japanese Sci-Fi Porn Feature.” The film is shot entirely in digital video and uses extensive computer grid animation to give it a polish, you’re-in-the-computer feel.

“Iku” is apparently the Japanese word Japanese people shout out at the moment of achieving orgasm. For the sake of doing a proper review, the movie’s premise revolves around a group of Iku Coders who goes around having sex and then recording the “data” from the orgasms that comes from said sex (no pun intended). The film follows a Coder name Reiko as she goes through the town one sex partner at a time. The data she records are then sold to the citizens who use it as a sort of virtual sexual release.

Or some such nonsense.

In-between the gratuitous nudity and sex, director Cheang throws at us all the bizarre customs and obsessions of the Japanese, including (but not limited to) Japanese school girls showing us their panties, groping in crowded subways by horny businessmen, and other sexual perversions (or depending on your POV, kinks) that have been given birth to the world by the Japanese film/porn industry over the decades.

Since “I.K.U.” immediately declares itself a “porn” film, this allows it the freedom to engage in porn activity without having to defend itself. The movie shows plenty of skin and sexual organs, and since the Reiko character supposedly has morphing abilities, different actresses replace her as she goes from encounter to the next. Besides hetero sex, there is the tried and true appearance of lesbian group sex (in a car, no less) as well as a gay sexual encounter between two men (also in a car). I suppose “I.K.U.” couldn’t call itself “daring” and “brave” if it didn’t include bi-sex, which seems to be the accepted must among all Art House films.

Not content to just confuse us with its pedigree, “I.K.U.” also seems intent to make everything as jumbled as possible. The dialogue, for instance, ranges from English to Japanese to a form of language I just can’t distinguish; are they even still speaking in a human tongue? Maybe Cheang did this on purpose, but I can’t help but feel cheated by a movie that neglects to include English subtitles for non-native speakers.

What passes for story in “I.K.U.” is really irrelevant, and the title cards that appear to fill us in on the history of the whole IKU program (the movie purports to take place in the near future) are all rather silly. The film itself is meant to be experimental and daring, but I’m at a loss to see what’s so daring about an incoherent film that flops badly whenever it sticks its neck out to provide “story.”

All of this leaves “I.K.U.” with one thing: pure sleaze. Its idea of narrative is nothing more than a series of excuses to get Japanese women to appear and engage in brisk, unexciting sexual activity with a variety of partners, including a black man who seems to have no genitals to speak of. (As if to add insult to injury, no one in the film looks like they’ve ever had sex before, thus keeping the audience from possibly enjoying even this one aspect of it!)

So in love with the premise of making a “daring” movie, Cheang ruins even the smallest chance of making a film for the sake of eroticism. There is no heat in “I.K.U.”, no story, and no possible chance anyone could think this movie is anything other than trash created from vanity, the product of a writer/director who thinks he/she has more to say than he/she actually does. (I don’t know the sex of the director (and can’t tell by the name), but I could really care less.)

Even the sleazy French soft-core porn film “Baise Moi” attempted to tell a story around its sexual encounters. “I.K.U.” can’t even be bothered with that.

Shu Lea Cheang (director) / Shu Lea Cheang (screenplay)

Buy I.K.U. on DVD