The Great Happiness Space - Tale of an Osaka Love Thief (2006) is a documentary on the lives of "host club" workers in Japan -- sharp-dressed, good-looking 20something guys who are paid to make women feel loved. No, not to perform sex acts, but to feel cared for.
My friend Eduardo Sciammarella, who spends a lot of time in Japan and recently pointed me to the film, says: "People look for love and will pay anything for it, even when they know they are being deceived and in turn deceiving. If you could capture the business model documented in this film into an online social network, you'd have something worth easily 10 times the projected value of Facebook."
Director Jake Clennel describes how he came to make this film, after spending time in Osaka on another project:
I eventually met some hosts. And after I had been to a few clubs I became very struck by just how charming these people were, it was always very nice to sit down and have a drink with them.
There is a raw charisma that through a sort of natural selection tends to be present in a successful host. The hosts experience reminded me of my experience when working with astronauts at N.A.S.A. They were a special and talented group of people who could be counted on to handle intense, prolonged, interpersonal contact and be friendly and cool despite the stress and being in a noisy space ship. Which is a little like being in a host club where the hosts only make money if they can maintain their charm and be engaging while selling champagne at $500 a bottle.
As the scene became clear, it became apparent that their customers were also professionals in the charm business. The situation in the club was a new phenomenon. Gender roles are constantly changing around the World and here it was happening in the extreme.
Reader comment: Greg Conley says,
The host club is likely familiar to people outside of Japan through an anime that aired fairly recently (and the source material manga that's already published in America), called Ouran High Host Club. Here's a wikipedia entry: Link.
It alters the situation a little; a club in a high school forms their own club on the grounds, but it works on the same premise, that charming young men entertain ladies.
There's a sample of the manga online here: Link (requires flash)
Gitai R. Ben-Ammi says,
For another interesting look at host bars in Japan, check out Shinjuku Boys. There are a number of host bars in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo that are staffed exclusively by FTM transsexuals. Shinjuku Boys is a documentary about those bars.