Love Exposure

Love Exposure ★★★★★

Jesus, I approve of you as the only cool man besides Kurt Cobain.

Holy goddamn fucking shit, son.

This was one of the earliest movies to end up on my Letterboxd watchlist, even before I had any idea who Sion Sono was. Once I became aware of him, and heard so much praise from fellow mutuals on here, I started digging into his movies, and fell in love. And Love Exposure, a film with a reputation and following about as huge as its runtime, became something of a holy grail, a movie which I absolutely could not wait to see. But I wanted to wait until I'd seen a little bit more of Sono's films before taking the plunge with the big one, just to get a grasp on his style and whether it was for me (that it totally was for me became apparent very quickly into Antiporno). So did it deliver on the immense hype and anticipation?

Duh.

This is the kind of movie that often gets described as being difficult to describe. Or, perhaps more accurately, difficult to describe in a way that really does it justice. By this point, I was well familiar with the general synopsis, about the story of a man who takes upskirt photos, falls in love, and there's a whole bunch of stuff in there about religion, sin, morality, guilt. And even as I type the words, I'm faced with the same realization, I'm sure, as many others before me: these descriptions really do not, cannot, prepare you for what the actual experience of watching this movie is like.

Stop having sex, assholes! Don't have sex! Filthy fuckers! Fucking is an inhuman act!

To describe a Sono film as weird, absurd, ridiculous, is basically redundant. But the way he utilizes his own weirdness here is truly a thing to behold. I want to say that he takes of all of his absurdities completely seriously, which is true, but it doesn't quite capture it. It's not a silly movie that pretends it's serious... at least not in the way you would generally think (see? words fail).

It's all utterly ridiculous, and often very funny. Yu and his gang go around snapping panty shots, which they do with hilariously elaborate martial arts moves, spinning, flipping, sliding, jumping, inconspicuously taking perverted pictures in the most ridiculously conspicuous way possible. It's funny and stupid, and the movie knows it's funny and stupid, and presents it as funny and stupid.

Until it doesn't.

But then also it still does.

See what I mean? Because so many things that are silly and almost cartoonish early on end up creating moments that are genuinely emotionally intense. The absurd becomes almost biblical, and somehow the movie manages to completely sell you on it. And the way the movie balances the silly with the serious, the funny with the meaningful, is incredible, because it never really switches back and forth between one or the other. Sono, the absoute madman, makes them coexist in perfect harmony, and an accusation of stolen panties can make your heart sink. You can have one of the most grueling, intense scenes involve whether or not it's okay to be a pervert.

I'm a pervert, but not a phony! I am a pervert with dignity.

Often long movies like this end up on the backburner for a long time, because even a single 3-hour movie, let alone 4 hours, is more of a commitment than two or even three 2-hour movies (it just is). And any long movie, no matter its quality, you generally can't help but start to feel its length. This becomes more true the longer it is (I loved Satantango, but you can't pretend you don't start to feel just how long it is). But I have to say, this may very well be the shortest 4 hours you'll ever spend. Despite its immense runtime, not only does it never feel too long, it never feels boring. At no point will you wonder how much more is left. It's just utterly captivating, which is a nice thing anyway, but especially impressive for something as long as this.

All of this is only scratching the surface of it, though. There's a lot that can be said about the movies many themes, which it balances expertly across its runtime. Particularly notable are its look at the potential pitfalls of religious belief; the way religious guilt and the belief in one's own inherent sinfulness can end up creating that very sin in a self-fulfilling prophecy; the terrifying harm of losing loved ones to a cult. There's also definitely some funky stuff going on in there with gender and sexuality, with Yoko, our second protagonist, having a lesbian awakening after falling in love with Yu's drag persona.

This is truly unlike anything else; comparable only to other Sion Sono movies and nothing else. For those not yet initiated into the weird, wild world of Sono, I offer this one to you with the highest recommendation. A man getting a boner will never provoke the same feelings in you as it will here. Never has so much religious angst been contained in a hard-on.

I'm being totally serious.

At least, as serious as Sono is. Make of that what you will.

Become erect with your heart.

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