May 30, 2010

Love Exposure

While discussing Sion Sono with a friend, he inquired if I'd seen his newer film Love Exposure. I meekly responded with a "no" and as he begin to tell me tales of a near 4 hour long film with satirical and over the top qualities, my interest was peaked with barely a mention of the synopsis. After viewing the scrapbook style trailer, I decided to let my instinct take the reigns and promptly found the film available for viewing. What unraveled over the course of four hours is not just what has been called "epic" or "a masterpiece" but a film that defies the very notion of time. With such a daunting run time of 237 minutes, the film seems to play for an average running time of 2 hours. With that considerable amount of time on hand, the delving into specific characters wields a remarkable level of detail that really sparked within me as I begrudgingly counted down until this outstanding achievement had finally reached its unwanted end.

If you, like me, wish to have this dazzling array of absurd culture in an untouched virgin form, cease reading this following summary of just some of the events transpiring in a religion-torn Japan. Yu Honda is the devout son of a priest who has recently lost his mother. Before her untimely death, she told her affable son to find his own "Virgin Mary." With that, he remained entirely devoted to the idea of a single woman. After his father converts a homely whore, she arouses a faltering faith as he begins to slowly fall in love with this mysterious woman. As Yu's father begins to slowly deteriorate following her eloping with a younger man, he begins to call Yu ritually into the confession booth to purge the sins from his innocent mind. As Yu realizes he never really sins, he decides to rig his life with pain and mischief as to make his father happier. This involves joining a gang, learning to fight, and with the recommendation of his dear friend, totatsu (aka the art of peek-a-pantie voyeurism.) After becoming the apprentice of a lonely master of acrobatic totatsu, our lovable Yu now employs rather wacky methods of getting pictures of panties in a search of both acceptance from the shell of his father and his search for his "Maria." What eventually becomes of him is madness, a brainwashing evil cult, lesbianism, incest, castration, and most importantly, drag queen slaughter.

Love Exposure is really, in every sense of the word, a sprawling epic. I had my doubts as its main recurring theme is love and religion. With the two topics in each hand as if being judged by my divine authority, I can't decide which one is more widely regarded as a myth. As Yu struggles harder for the love of his soon to be sister, Yoko, he's eventually driven over the edge and is faced with innumerable obstacles that most people wouldn't dream of approaching. This paired with the fact that this film is based on the life of director Sion Sono's friend really makes you scratch your head in an effort to discover which is fact and which is fiction. What Yu faces in his quest for supreme love is only so much an exaggeration. Their fateful meeting was all because of a bet on who could take the best pantie photo. After losing to his own pupil, Yu struts down the street in a black trench coat, black wig, and a large hat. After aiding and abetting the volatile woman, he kisses her and adopts the moniker of "Miss Scorpion." Soon there after, he discovers that everything that has happened in his life as of recently has been orchestrated by a sadistic sociopath named Koike who has been pulling the strings with a larger scheme in mind.

In debt to the impeccable job that Sion Sono had performed at establishing characters from the rawest roots possible, I found myself becoming increasingly more and more distressed as Yu's life spiraled into mad turbulence. So I did what any panic stricken male would do; begin drinking. After hitting several shots of 99 Black Cherries and 99 Grapes, I was finally at ease and could relax my tense and sore muscles. Love Exposure is that sort of film; the one where you are vulnerable from the same oppression as the lead absorbs like a magnet for everything evil in the world. What really drives the film in an already incredible direction is the masterful soundtrack and where the irony lies is that there is no soundtrack. It's composed entirely of eloquent pieces of classical works (with the exception of the theme track) ranging from Ravel's Bolero to various works of Taize. The fact of the matter is that within two hours of watching Love Exposure, I knew that this was one of my favorite films of all time. Now I've always been partial to the works of Sion Sono but after seeing so many of his films and highlighting a trend of consistency, I have to say that he is one of my favorite auteur's. I mean, just look at his script for Love Exposure (see below).

With Love Exposure recently in mind, It appears that I've reached a level of cinematic enlightenment. The pure replay value of this film is retarded and there is no other way to put it. With just the mention of Tak Sakaguchi directing the action sequences, my hard-on soared just as that of Yu's whenever he sees or thinks of his darling Yoko. Never has a film made me want to run out and kick ass except that of Die Hard and other various Bruce Willis films. The innocence in Yu's eyes always remains true, even after he is knighted the "Prince of Perverts." I can really grasp the feel of this epic as I've witnessed first-hand the insanity that plagues the female species and that's what these films all seem to be about. You take near any film and deconstruct it just far enough, and you'll find the fault of a woman. Take the recently viewed Park Chan-Wook masterpiece Thirst. Once the abused and damaged woman is given just a little power, she loses her shit and becomes damn near a psychopath. It's literally painful to watch the damage Yoko commits to Yu's entire existence due to her stubbornness to understand anything other than her hatred for all men. The very idea of her being duped into being a lesbian says a lot for the standards of gays all around the world.

As for the definitive evil bitch role, Koike does marvelous in her ability to turn an innocent "high school voyeuristic photo-maniac" into a simple "maniac." After stealing and manipulating everything he loves, our Yu would do what any other would - punch a woman in the fucking face. While Sion Sono does superb in the field of wringing your very soul of any positive emotion, he is also skilled at re-inflating it, instating a feeling of euphoria, if you will. As Suicide Club dealt with issues concerning subliminal messages and brainwashing, the very common ground between these two films is one of many reasons that I never wanted this film to end. I stand ground with each and every individual character. I love, I spite, and I cry at each turn of events. I have equally been assimilated into the universe of Love Exposure and for once, I found a home comfortable enough to revisit at any time. I never use this phrase with an exception of a small handful of films but Love Exposure has charmed, captivated, and horrified me. This will go down as one of my favorite films of all time. Other than that, I don't really know what to say that hasn't already been said about this grandiose pièce de résistance. You owe it to yourself to delve into Love Exposure and I cannot wait to view this elusive six hour cut.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of my all time favourites too. As I read the review I had a chill that cannot be described. It was like I revisited the whole movie. This is by far the most "fresh" film to be made in years, in a lot of years actually.
An amazing review for what might be the most amazing epic film ever made.
Good Job SS!