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 under the frothing-at-the-mouth control of one Lord Buppa (Riki Takeuchi) and his two crazy sons. If the concept didn’t already sound eccentric, dig Sono’s execution: ambitious long takes build up this distinctive, futuristic world, peppered with many bits of random WTF invention (perhaps most memorably, a female servant that indulges in some off-the-hook beat-boxing), and a wall-to-wall energy level that courses through stretches where Sono’s inspiration seems in danger of flagging from sheer sensory overload. But while one can certainly derive plentiful enjoyment by simply basking in the nuttiness, there is also a sneaky intelligence laced throughout Tokyo Tribe. Note, for instance, the palpable weariness with which Shota Sometani’s MC delivers his gobs of rap exposition in the film’s opening moments—a strangely poignant reflection of the ennui that’s overtaken this junkyard future-Tokyo. And of course, Sono’s operatic intensity is still very much present—no more so than in a big blow-out finish, which climaxes in a final confrontation that not only reveals the villains’ ultimately petty motivations (it’s all about dick fear), but also yet again confirms Sono’s continued, guiding belief in the triumphant power of love.
by Kenji Fujishima• Retrospective