Where Shin’ya Tsukamoto pulled Japan’s industrial guts out and gave them horrid new life, Sion Sono dove in to the same viscera and lit a cigarette. Ballardian ennui and Garrellian textured stillness, Sono bites his thumb at the idea of precious pretension as a way to critique modernity. The heroes of 1993’s The Room—a man dressed like a detective, a woman trying to sell him an apartment—speak around each other, trying and failing to re-code the other’s linguistic pattern. Sono snickers at their awkward longeurs, papered over by the sound of subliminal newspaper salesmen and transit trains. Sleepwalking agents of chaos murdered at a gas and go, Godard’s favorite way station (even Demy saw its blue collar poetry as essential to any depiction of modern life), guns dropped out of pockets absentmindedly, the piss more important than anything (Harvey Pekar would agree).
Sono looked long into the abyss of popular, post-modern art, and realized he could do it standing on his head.
So what then does this mopey exploration and flagrant monotony mean? Sono looked long into the abyss of popular, post-modern art, and realized he could do it standing on his head. The sounds of footsteps, of glass scraping sidewalk, the implicit rattle of the magazine in the camera silenced like the death throes of these tragic automatons. His hero looks for a room, Sono looks for a reason to play with old forms and finds only a mirror he has no use for. He could look at his cinephilic forebears, whip smart unto boredom, and imitate them all day until his hero finds an apartment that meets his specifications, but he won’t settle for a room that had been occupied before. There’s so much out there yet to be mapped, so many roads untraveled, stations unvisited, rooms that need demolishing. Even the black and white photography speaks of frustration, boredom, the know-it-all with a cigarette rolling his eyes in the back of the class. Sono walls up idle modernity, Poe-style, trapping its temptations like a diseased population (Cronenberg smiles dryly in the back of this achy-joint jaunt). The world didn’t need another lonely tenant in borrowed clothes, barely able to lift the muscles needed to go through the motions. It needed Sion Sono and it needed him at 120 miles per hour, loosed and wild, no walls to stare at. Bye Bye 20th Century, and bye bye cinema.