This is a show I've been raring to see for a while now, ever since I first heard about it a few months ago. It's been creating quite the hype in the movie festival circuit, selling out arthouses and festival venues around the world despite being a whopping 4-hours in length. I first heard about it while searching around for AAA goodies (the singing/dancing performance unit the lead actor is a part of, whose music and dance I find highly appealing) and what a great thing it has led me to. Here's a taste of it:-
And now, I've seen it.
Not being able to go to these festivals, I had to wait two months with bated breath for the DVD to finally arrive at my doorstep. The wait was worth every second, the amount I paid worth every cent.
Here's my review, which took me a week and three watches of the movie to finally churn out:
(WARNING: CONTAINS MILD-ISH SPOILERS)
But first, here's a synopsis I found (This is the best one I could find but please note that no summary will ever do this movie justice):
"Based on the life of one of Sono’s friends, LOVE EXPOSURE is all about Yu (Takahiro Nishijima), the son of a Catholic priest (Atsuro Watabe) who loses his religion when his mother dies. Obsessed with sin and confession, Dad criticizes the state of his son’s spotless soul, claiming that his confessions are weak and simple and that he must confess real sins. Unable to make anything up, there’s nothing for Yu to do but become a sinner, and so the confused kid learns the ninja-tastic martial art of taking up-skirt photographs. Now a full-fledged pornographer he’s really got something to confess, earning beatings from his shocked dad. But in the middle of his new career, while dressed (as the result of losing a bet) as Sasori, the hero of a series of 70’s women-in-prison movies, Yu meets the love of his life, Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima), who’s in the middle of beating up a bunch of horrible men. Drag-clad Yu jumps into the fray and that’s when things get complicated. A villainess appears in the person of the giggling young schoolgirl, Aya (Sakura Ando) who shows up, stroking her green parakeet the way a Bond villain strokes his white cat, and soon she’s manipulating these two star-crossed lovers in the name of the cult for which she works, the Zero Church."
Now, on to the review:
I almost didn't want to write this up. Not because I had nothing to say about it. It's because I had no idea where to begin.
I couldn't decide whether I even liked it or not immediately after because there were just so many things the movie was trying to say that my head hadn't had time to fully digest everything yet. I felt good things about it in my heart but my brain refused to connect with it so soon after the overload it has received. I got the linear story well enough but it's the things in between the lines that were still a jumbled mess in my head. It was only after I've sat down and sorted it out...or most of it anyway--there are still small piles here and there which I'll only be able to sort after a a few more watches--that my brain finally conceded with my heart---so now I can safely say that it's the movie I've been waiting to see all my life.
Most of Sion Sono's works prior to this, from what I read, aren't catered to the general audience and only appeals to a niche group of movie-goers. I daresay that while I acknowledge his movies, those I watched anyway (Suicide Circle and Strange Circus--which I watched to see what his works are like and how they differ from this one), have substance, they weren't easy to stomach.
This one, despite its jaw-dropping length of 4 hours, can actually appeal to a wider array of audience as far as Sono's works go. I've read reviews which termed it as perverse, and it is, make no mistake about it, but I didn't find it anywhere near heart-attack inducing at all. And most of all, I find it an essential part of the movie that makes it the magnificent piece of work that it is. The comedic elements, while straightforward, didn't seem all that slapstick to me either. I'm not a fan of slapstick comedy so it was not without some trepidation when I was watching the first hour--which felt like a second to me, by the way. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't come off to me as that, however. What it did come to me as, is a necessary element of the movie which the director chose to present as comedy, and instead of cheapening the show, it enriches it instead.
The characters are fleshed out so well, you'd think they were real people. A main character who's both hero and victim, dragged into hell and forcibly delivered from evil which he committed only out of the innocent desire for affection and a love so pure, it hurts. His Maria who looks as sweet as sweet can be but turns out to be tough as nails, and who seems jaded by the hand life has dealt her but is ultimately ignorant of what's really happening around her. The victim turned villain that is Koike, devious and twisted, due to a past that she refused to let haunt her by cutting the problem at its root. Literally. What she wants, she will stop at nothing to get. Tetsu, loving father at first but revealed to be a misguided parent and a severely flawed human in the end. And finally Kaori, a whirlwind of chaos that is both the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Tetsu. No doubt, the balls of complexities these characters are, thanks to spot-on directing and flawlessly delivered acting, would leave a deep impression on appreciative viewers for many, many years to come.
Music-wise, the buildup of Ravel's Bolero and the slow burning of the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 are used to astounding and jaw-dropping effect. Combined with the mesmerizing melodies of Yura Yura Teikoku's music, the religious hymns and the catchy original compositions, it plays a significant part in delivering a story that is riveting and reaches into the far recesses of the heart and mind.
It's not going to be blockbuster (though it has every right to be, despite all its non-mainstream elements), but then works of art rarely are. 4 hours long and, in my opinion, with nary a single unnecessary element (even the gore near the end has its part to play in the movie, as far as I'm concerned). It's equal parts hilarious and deeply moving. To put it simply, this movie is a blast like no other; poetically, this is a piece of entertainment which holds within itself a profusedly bleeding heart.
No, it's not perfect. But it's very close.
Wow, if you read all that, you have my adoration. As a thank you, here's the YYT song from the movie, out of three, that had the most sound effect on me on youtube for you to sample:
On a final note, if you have the chance to catch this once-in-a-lifetime movie at a movie festival that's happening near you, please don't miss it because it's not everyday something as great as this comes by.