(Ai no mukidashi, 2008) Nutty, nutty, nutty. Nutty. Sion Sono tops his “Suicide Club” with the four-hour “Love Exposure,” a revenge-drama-martial-arts-sex-comedy-romantic-nostalgic telling of the life of a Tokyo teenager, the son of a priest, who thinks of himself as “king of the perverts” and becomes an up-skirt photographer and sometimes cross-dresser; pornography and doomsday cults are also involved. (It’s longer than “Gone with the Wind” and hits more emotional heights and low-comedy depths: think “Gone With The Kawaii.”) And the love of Kurt Cobain. And a renegade erection: first love as a “sinful boner.” And Corinthians 13. And schoolgirl’s panties. But! Under all the clashing components, there are complex narrative strategies, moral contemplation, consistent, theatrical acting and laugh-out-loud comedy. A cosmopolitan, cross-cultural comparison would be Almodóvar-and-hentai-meet-Rivette, but that particular mash-up would likely only occur to inveterate, voracious filmgoers. The average viewer could take it as “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” on an unexpected surfeit of narcotics: it’s pop with heart and soul and a level of energy that would break a lesser filmmaker. It’s a daffy, sometimes-baffling charmer. Plus, the Japanese censors (or at least Sion’s financiers) must’ve gotten a month’s work out of however many cuts this juggernaut went through from its six-hour original running time. With Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Ando, Makiko Watanabe, Atsuro Watabe. 237m. (Ray Pride)
“Love Exposure” plays Saturday-Monday and Wednesday at Siskel. A trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.