'Love Exposure'

Religion, family and sexual mores are satirically skewered in overlong "Love Exposure."

Religion, family and sexual mores are satirically skewered and slowly roasted in the iconoclastic, overlong Japanese indie “Love Exposure.” Evoking an unhinged Ken Russell on a sushi binge, helmer Sion Sono confirms his rep for excess (“Suicide Club”) with this delirious, hypnotic, four-hour marathon about a teen who takes photos up women’s skirts and his sacred love. Sono attacks Nipponese society’s sugar-coating by drawing on and transcending the trash aesthetic that excites fanboy Japanologists. Though the pic is far too long for midnight slots, fests bidding for cutting-edge status will pounce.

Tokyo teen Yu Honda (Takahiro Nishijima) is the traumatized son of a widower-cum-Catholic priest (Atsuro Watabe), who begins a sexual liaison with parishioner Kaori (Makiko Watanabe). When Dad’s affair comes to a halt, he begins admonishing his son to confess to so many sins that the 17-year-old takes up new ones to appease his father’s increased religious zeal.

One “sin” — surreptitiously taking candid photographs of panties worn by female pedestrians — becomes a vocation. Unfortunately, a deal with a porn company comes undone when Yu turns down starring roles, because he admits he’s saving himself for a Virgin Mary-like ideal woman.

On cue, the narrative introduces feisty schoolgirl Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima), who loathes men and enjoys beating them up for their moronic attitudes. Yu falls in love and tries to win her, fully aware that exposure of his superstar status will enrage her.

Observing the development of this bizarre courtship is religious cult rep Aya Koike (Sakura Ando). Aya not only wants to claim Yoko for herself but aims to convert each of the protags to her own spiritual cause. Pointed (and pointless) violence ensues at various intervals, beginning with Aya’s castration of her comatose father.

Perfs have a legit tinge that suggests thesps drawn from avant-garde theater. But Mitsushima’s turn as Yoko commands the screen. Tech credits are good enough.

Love Exposure

Japan

Production

An Omega Project, Entertainment, Studio Three Co. production. (International sales: Phantom Film Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Toyoyuki Yokohama, Shinya Kawai. Directed, written by Sion Sono.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm, widescreen), Sohei Tanigawa; editor, Junichi Ito; music, Tomohide Harada; production designer, Takashi Matsuzuka; sound, Yasushi Eguchi, Hajime Komiya. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Jan. 26, 2009. (In Berlin Film Festival -- Forum.) Running time: 237 MIN.

With

Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Ando, Atsuro Watabe, Makiko Watanabe.

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