Love Exposure (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/10/2009

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 237 mins

Audacious, emotionally engaging and laugh-out-loud funny, Love Exposure is one of the best films of the year, thanks to Sono Sion's masterful direction, a superb script and a trio of terrific performances.

What's it all about?
Directed by Sono Sion, Love Exposure stars Takahiro Nishijima as Yu, a repressed teenager who becomes an upskirt photographer, partly in order to have sufficiently shocking sins to confess to his father, Tetsu (Atsuro Watabe), who has turned to the priesthood after the death of Yu's religious mother. Whilst dressed as a woman (specifically, the heroine of Female Convict Scorpion), Yu meets the girl of his dreams (Hikari Mitsushima as Yoko) when he saves her from a gang of thugs, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that she falls for him while he's dressed as a woman and immediately declares herself a lesbian, leaving him unable to reveal his true identity.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Yoko's stepmother Kaori (Makiko Watanabe) seduces and moves in with Tetsu, compounding Yu's sexual frustration and effectively making Yoko his stepsister. Meanwhile, the vengeful Koike (Sakura Ando) exposes Yu as a pornographer and manipulates Yoko into joining a religious cult called Zero Church.

The Good
Don't be put off by the arse-challenging running time, because Love Exposure is quite possibly the best four hour Japanese movie ever made. Sono Sion's direction is masterful throughout – the film is part sex comedy, part revenge fantasy, part religious meditation and part love story and yet Sion ensures that, far from being a chaotic mishmash, each element fits together perfectly and somehow achieves much deeper emotional resonance as a result.

Nishijima and Mitsushima deliver extraordinary performances that make us really root for their characters to get together, even if Yu has to remain dressed as a woman for it to happen. There's also terrific support from Ando (whose character is much more complex than the parakeet-stroking master villain she first seems), whilst Makiko Watanabe steals every scene she's in as the flighty Kaori.

The Great
The script is excellent, layering in astute observations on religion, pornography, desire and perversion whilst still delivering an engaging love story that is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. In addition, Sion orchestrates some wonderful scenes, such as a lengthy sequence scored to Ravel's Bolero.

Worth seeing?
Love Exposure is, quite simply, unmissable. One of the best films of the year.

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Love Exposure (18)
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Content updated: 15/12/2017 21:30

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