Retrospective Film

by Kenji Fujishima Retrospective Film

Tokyo Tribe | Sion Sono

August 26, 2016
Tokyo Tribe

Though the presence of Shota Sometani, the tortured lead actor of Sion Sono’s Himizu—who’s even sporting the same gray hoodie he wore in that previous film—establishes a link between Sono’s more serious Fukushima Daiichi disaster-related films, Tokyo Tribe is resolutely in the maximalist vein of the director’s glorious movie-about-moviemaking Why Don’t You Play in Hell? If anything, Tokyo Tribe even manages to top the blissfully insane pleasures of its predecessor. Imagine a Warriors-influenced rap musical set in a dystopian Tokyo wherein various street gangs are…

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by Chris Mello Retrospective Film

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? | Sion Sono

August 26, 2016
Why Don't

There’s a moment late in Why Don’t You Play in Hell? that neatly sums up Sion Sono’s distinctive vision. A boy crawls through a blood-soaked room to be next to the girl he loves, a girl he’s only just met — and there’s a sword running through his head as he does this, transforming him into a sort of grotesque unicorn. As in many of Sono’s best films, the extravagant violence here is motivated by grandiose emotions. And while it makes loud…

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by 
Drew Hunt Retrospective Film

Himizu | Sion Sono

August 25, 2016
Himizu

Sion Sono’s near-masterpiece Himizu takes place in the shadow of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and ensuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, the largest such event since Chernobyl in 1986. The disaster left the surrounding area and national psyche ravaged, but if we’re to believe the film’s pessimistic view of Japanese society, Fukushima Daiichi wasn’t the only toxic thing about contemporary Japan. An unabashedly gloomy coming-of-age tale, Himizu turns a scornful eye toward a culture that promotes individualism while simultaneously hindering…

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by Jake Mulligan Retrospective Film

Guilty of Romance | Sion Sono

August 25, 2016
Guilty of Romance

An unfulfilled housewife drifts away from her mannered husband by selling her body whenever he’s away in Sion Sono’s Guilty of Romance—a film that seems in conversation with Luis Buñuel’s classic Belle de Jour. As with his forebear, the central transgression Sono is after is the wandering sex life of an ostensibly monogamous woman, a subject the director makes personal in both writing and casting. The kept woman is Izumi Kikuchi (Megumi Kagurazaka, Sono’s wife), who’s left to rigorous housekeeping each day. Her perpetually domineering husband makes…

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by Zach Lewis Retrospective Film

Bad Film | Sion Sono

August 24, 2016
Bad Film

Despite its 2012 release, Bad Film captures a Sion Sono before he reached international acclaim; before his particular brand of otaku-influenced action films; and before his unabashed revelry in exhibitionism and voyeurism. It was filmed back in the mid-’90s, way before Sono’s breakout Suicide Club, and not finished until after his critical success Love Exposure, in 2011. This allowed a wizened Sono to collect fragments (roughly 150 hours) of his earlier activist years and turn them into either a diary of a particular…

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by Alex Engquist Retrospective Film

The Land of Hope | Sion Sono

August 23, 2016
image

Only in a filmography as stylistically restless and formally anarchic as Sion Sono’s would a somber family drama like The Land of Hope be considered a radical departure. Made in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and ensuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Sono’s film is its own odd hybrid of Ozu-esque generational drama, speculative sci-fi, and searingly direct protest art. Set in a post-Fukushima Japan, in a fictional rural province called Nagashima (Sono’s invented portmanteau of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Fukushima, all…

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by Sean Gilman Retrospective Film

Love Exposure | Sion Sono

August 22, 2016
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Sion Sono’s Love Exposure is an epic, four-hour romantic comedy about terrible fathers, upskirt photography, Catholicism, and the meaning of love. Where Sono’s Bicycle Sighs could be categorized as a fairly typical minimalist art film, and his Suicide Club firmly entrenched itself in the millennial wave of Japanese horror, Love Exposure is much less easy to peg—a wholly original pop construct springing forth from its auteur’s cracked heart. If the film has a stylistic precursor at all, it’s the freewheeling exuberance of ’70s exploitation cinema: the…

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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
exte

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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by 
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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