Retrospective Film

by Daniel Gorman Retrospective Film

Cold Fish | Sion Sono

August 19, 2016
Cold Fish

One task of the critic is to place a film within the context of its artist’s entire body of work, looking for recurring themes, motifs, obsessions, etc. But the sheer breadth of Sion Sono’s filmography—coupled with those films’ sporadic (at best) distribution—leaves the average viewer with a perhaps skewed version of the director’s intentions. For better or worse, much like Takashi Miike, Sono is as a result known for his over-the-top violence and digressions into outright absurdity, sometimes coupled with extremely long running…

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by Carson Lund Retrospective Film

Be Sure to Share | Sion Sono

August 19, 2016
Be Sure to Share

An anomalous tearjerker from Sion Sono couched between some of the director’s most outré genre eruptions, Be Sure to Share channels Sono’s own grief over the loss of his father into a modest tale of filial piety renewed against the backdrop of terminal cancer. Shiro (Akira), who’s happily employed in his late twenties and on the cusp of engagement to his mild-mannered girlfriend, Yoko (Ayumi Itô), has his world rocked when his father Tetsuji (Eiji Okada) unexpectedly keels over and is…

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by Veronika Ferdman Retrospective Film

Exte: Hair Extensions | Sion Sono

August 18, 2016

When the director of a film is also its screenwriter it’s relatively safe to assume that what you’re watching—outside interference notwithstanding—is a story that they actually wanted to tell. It then becomes endlessly amusing to consider what it must be like to wake up every day as the man who decided to make a film about killer hair extensions. (Pretty wonderful, probably.) Exte: Hair Extensions opens with two security guards patrolling a shipyard at night, casually talking about lottery tickets and girlfriend…

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by Chris Mello Retrospective Film

Noriko’s Dinner Table | Sion Sono

August 17, 2016
Noriko's Dinner Table

Though it sports a few grisly images of its own, Noriko’s Dinner Table borrows most of its bloodshed from its companion film, Suicide Club. Sono repurposes the opening of his breakthrough—during which 54 high school students jump in front of an oncoming train—several times here, first for context and later for impact. But rather than repeat himself, Sono fashions Noriko’s Dinner Table as a melodrama about the dissolution of family and the creation of oneself in the internet era. Its most…

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Drew Hunt Retrospective Film

Strange Circus | Sion Sono

August 17, 2016
Strange Circus2

Pull any Sion Sono movie off the shelf and chances are somebody somewhere has called it his “most extreme.” With a filmography as pervasively perverse and profane as Sono’s, one could place such a distinction on almost any title and probably be correct in saying so. But there’s something uniquely twisted about the feverish Strange Circus, Sono’s 2005 exercise in ero-guro, a Japanese art style that trades in sexual depravity and violence. The word itself is a wasei-eigo, a Japanese…

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by Kent M. Beeson Retrospective Film

Hazard | Sion Sono

August 16, 2016

If there’s one word that beats at the heart of the violent, restless Hazard, Sion Sono’s 11th film, it’s “transcendence.” Nominally a crime story about a Japanese college student named Shinichi (Jo Odagiri) who falls in with the wrong crowd on the mean streets of New York, Hazard intends to upend given notions of what transcendence might look like. Shinichi’s “wrong crowd”—Lee (Jai West) and Takeda (Motoki Fukami)—rob convenience stores and sell speed-laced cones from a tinkling ice cream truck. But rather than lead…

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by Jake Mulligan Retrospective Film

Into a Dream | Sion Sono

August 15, 2016
Into a Dream

An early moment in Sion Sono’s 2005 feature Into a Dream finds dorama actor Mutsugoro Suzuki (Tatsushi Tanaka) attending a low-budget Japanese-language staging of A Streetcar Named Desire, one marked by experimental acting and deliberately unreal conceits of staging. Suzuki joins a number of the performers after for drinks, where he catches some shade for his safer artistic choices: “I’m happy to be doing Tennessee Williams,” a member of the troupe announces. One of Suzuki’s many girlfriends spots him wincing at the remark, and asks…

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by Sean Gilman Retrospective Film

Suicide Club | Sion Sono

August 15, 2016
Suicide Club

Suicide Club opens with a montage of the city at night: documentary realist footage of pedestrians moving through Tokyo, on and off of trains and through stations, is scored to a peppy martial beat. Then, in a dreadful instant, the familiar tropes of the city symphony turn to horror as 54 teenaged girls leap, in unison, from a subway platform and in front of an on-coming train—leading to a cataclysm of squished heads and blood-spray. This is how Sion Sono begins his…

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by Paul Attard Retrospective Film

The Real Body | Sion Sono

August 12, 2016
The Real Body

Sion Sono’s eighth feature refined and nearly perfected his early, amateurish Dogme 95-esque aesthetic. Billed as a “film about the human body,” The Real Body is a totally singular hybrid of documentary and fiction. It examines the work of four artists—photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, buoh dancer Akaji Maro, fashion designer Shinichiro Arakawa, and Sono himself—each of whom use the human body, in different ways, to express lust, love, and desire. Sono also directs a film-within-the-film following a high school girl (Keiko Hamaguchi) who loves to run and falls…

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by Matt Lynch Retrospective Film

Teachers of Sexual Play: Modelling Urns With the Female Body | Sion Sono

August 11, 2016
Teaches Play

The title of this pre-Suicide Club entry—which Sion Sono categorizes as a straight pink film—pretty much sums up the film in its entirety. Together with his wife, a master pottery maker (played by Sono himself), crippled by some unnamed malady, channels sexual energy into art. The couple teach a pottery class with just three naïve students (two eager, nubile girls and a nerdy guy), the ultimate goal of which is to maintain their long-standing winning streak at a local art fair. That sounds like…

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by Carson Lund Retrospective Film

I Am Keiko | Sion Sono

August 10, 2016
I Am Keiko

I Am Keiko is a film caught within the dimensions of its maker’s head, composed of and consumed by the limits of that brain’s capacity for thought. This is a statement of fact, not a value judgment, and a twofold statement at that. Sion Sono may have directed I Am Keiko but Keiko herself, a 22-year-old waitress grieving from the recent loss of her father to cancer, is positioned within the film’s fictional framework as the sole author of its images…

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by Scout Tafoya Retrospective Film

The Room | Sion Sono

August 9, 2016
The Room Big

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…

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