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Love Exposure - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Ai no Mukidashi

Japan 2008

Drama, Comedy, Romance

Sion Sono

Takahiro Nishijima
Hikari Mitsushima
Sakura Ando
Atsuro Watabe
Makiko Watanabe
Yutaka Shimizu
Sow Hirosawa
Tasuku Nagaoka
Hiroyuki Onoue
Yuko Genkaku
Itsuji Itao

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Love Exposure

Story: Yu Tsunoda (Takahiro Nishijima) is the son of a priest (Atsuro Watabe). His father Tetsu falls in love with the brash woman Kaori (Makiko Watanabe) until she drops him as he can't marry her because of his vow as a priest. Following that Tetsu plunges into a deep crisis and makes his son confess his sins. As Yu has no sins to confess, though, and gets beaten by his father, he starts to deliberately commit sins to get closer to his father again. He eventually gets involved with friends that continue to lead him astray and introduce him to someone who teaches him the art of secretly taking panty pictures. When Yu confesses his new passion to his father it is too much for the priest to bear and he kicks him out of his home.
One day Yu runs into schoolgirl Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima) when she defends herself against a group of thugs. Yu is dressed in women's clothes because of a bet he lost, but he instantly realizes that Yoko is his Blessed Virgin Mary he was looking for all the time. Yoko on the other hand feels a deep-seated hatred towards all men, yet falls in love with Yu's female alter ego right away. In the background Aya Koike (Sakura Ando), the leader of a religious sect, is pulling the strings and pursues a completely different goal which she wants to achieve with the help of the two.

Review: A movie with a running time of four hours is something that you keep putting off out of respect. But in the case of "Love Exposure" that isn't necessary at all as the movie isn't boring for even a minute. The drama revolving around love, religion and society is a true rollercoaster ride which means that you will still feel dizzy after the credits have rolled over the screen. Director Sion Sono juggles with so many themes in his movie that you will grasp the subtle messages best if you don't strain yourself reflecting about them, but just let the movie sink in as a whole. Apart from its complexity Sion's drama especially stands out thanks to its humor and fantastically fleshed out characters who are all in their own respect outcasts of society. "Love Exposure" is off-the-wall, colorful, crazy and profound, or to rephrase it with just one word - great.

Love Exposure - Film Screenshot 11

Sion Sono, who brought us movies like "Suicide Club" or "Strange Circus" before, delivers his most epic movie here and this even though he still needs to get by with a low budget. Although he even had to save money when it comes to the camera equipment his pictures look polished nonetheless and are also beautiful and almost poetic at times. It isn't that wrong to call Sion a poet who expresses himself through his pictures. But dialogues are also important to him. Furthermore, he gives us the opportunity to get an insight look into the thoughts of the protagonists via inner monologues, especially during the first half. This immediately brings us closer to the individuals and also creates a strong bond to the viewer, even though it easily could have been annoying as well.

Love Exposure - Film Screenshot 12

Religion plays a major role in this drama. It isn't just made fun of, although those scenes are particularly funny to watch, but in fact "Love Exposure" is a very religious movie. It's just that Christianity's rules of etiquette don't appeal to the protagonists and so they need to come up with and build their own system according to which they can lead their lives. At first glance Yu may seem like a pervert, but actually it's just his yearning to be noticed by his father that led him there. Yet he accepts what he is and this stands in stark contrast to the fact that at a closer look he is a holy virgin who preserves his virginity for his one true love, doesn't even masturbate and after all only gets an erection when seeing Yoko.

There are a few erotic scenes in "Love Exposure" as well as some pretty bloody ones, sometimes both at the same time. But you would be disappointed if there weren't at least one scene of blood splatter in a movie by Sion Sono. However, the film is also Sion's most audience-friendly and positive one to date. Moreover, the violence is only the exterior which is taking turns with aforementioned shots of poetry like that of the family shouldering a cross. In its core there is a dominating tone of anarchy. Every system shown in the film, whether it is the family, religion or several institutions, they all fail miserably and looking for the truth there is no choice but to erect your own system of thought. Thus, and this is no suprise, "Love Exposure" is a philosophical movie. At the end of this search for truth there is love. That's the message. The path leading to it may look different for everyone and if it lies in a moderate form of perversion that's ok as well. Also, when do things become perverted anyway? Panty-shots? Nurse costumes? Who wants to throw the first stone?

Love Exposure - Film Screenshot 13

The way the individual pictures gear into another is astonishing. The film's point of view changes frequently, numerous smart coincidences create tension at any point in time and during the several long shots the actors are allowed to prove their acting talents. Some of the coincidences or actions of the characters are pretty absurd, though, and in their wacky style also breed that special humor of the movie. Unfortunately, "Love Exposure" loses some of its momentum during the last third and at some points becomes too self-important. The ending isn't as emotionally touching as you would expect either, but instead it goes more deep and will stick with the viewer long after the credits. "Love Exposure" is a bit convoluted, but especially the fact that it isn't perfect gives the drama its unique coloration and does make it almost perfect. Furthermore, it shouldn't be possible for a four-hour movie to be such a fun ride and so captivating. "Love Exposure" is a masterpiece of modern Japanese cinema and simply something that you haven't seen before!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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