Director: Shion Sono / Writers: Shion Sono / Starring: Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, and Sakura Andô
(This is not officially a “Taste of Asia” post, but it sort of qualifies…)
The word “epic” is one of many that has been increasingly overused in popular culture lately, and so I often try to avoid using it and contributing to that trend. But then a movie like Love Exposure comes along, authentically embodying all that the word epic connotes.
Part of my reason for writing about Love Exposure this week instead of my usual installment of “Old Movies / Young Eyes” is that folks in Los Angeles have one final opportunity to see this one on the big screen (at least until some other theater decides to give it another whirl a couple years down the road, which is not beyond the realm of possibility).
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I do tend to have a soft spot for nearly all things Japanese. (Natto does not fall into this category.) Nevertheless, I know that I am not alone in having fallen in love with Love Exposure. The Cinefamily program director felt so strongly about the movie that it is one of the few movies they have chosen to screen for an entire week.
Love Exposure really is a love story, albeit a somewhat twisted one. The movie centers around Yu, a teenage Japanese boy who lost his mother at a very young age and whose father has become a Catholic priest. Innocent and pure-hearted Yu has never even had a boner by the age of 15, and often recalls his mother’s wish that he find himself a woman like the Virgin Mary. Yu’s father, driven somewhat mad by a fickle mistress he won’t renounce the cloth to marry, ends up snapping and insisting that Yu confess to his sins, which Yu is at a loss to imagine.
Then comes the upskirt photography. Yu takes up with a group of outcasts and begins racking up sin tallies by snapping shots of pantsu, earning some kind of acknowledgment from his father, the respect of his outcast friends, and eventually the attention of Koike, the twisted castration-happy leader of a growing Zero Church religious cult.
Another character, Yoko, emerges in a climactic street-fight as Yu’s Virgin Mary, and Yu rushes to her side to help her vanquish her adversaries. Only problem? Yu is dressed like a woman when he does so, and fails to expose his true identity to her once the fight has come to its end. Yoko hates men, but begins to fall for the person who saved her, much to Yu’s dismay. Koike, bent on turning followers from the Catholic church to her cult, seeks to take advantage of Yu’s fragile position to bring about the downfall of his family and his father’s church and thus score many more followers for the Church of Zero. Along the way, she manages to terrorize poor Yu and we are left wondering if he will ever capture the heart of his beloved Yoko, the only woman able to arouse his… um, attention.
This movie, just under four hours long, is worth every minute and more. I’m thrilled that I’ll have another opportunity to see it on the large screen tomorrow here in LA, but I’m also looking forward to a DVD release which is bound to happen sooner or later. (Currently it’s only available regionally-coded for UK markets, as far as I can tell.) I highly encourage you all to keep your eyes peeled for this one, as it’s a must-see.