On Obsessions, Corinthians, and Parakeets

A four-hour film that zips by in a feverish dream, Sion Sono's ninja softcore art movie satire Love Exposure enlists viewers in its cult even as you're watching it. Which is odd, as among its accomplishments it mocks religion (Japanese Catholicism, and a Moonielike cult), and mocks the insane romanticism of its protagonists, while at the same time treating the spiritual love these characters seek absolutely seriously. And that's the secret of this 2008 Japanese film's success. Yu, a deluded teenage boy, seeks to win his priestly father's love by becoming the worst sinner he can imagine, which leads him from upskirt photography to eventual fame as the father confessor to a parade of fetishists. Half a dozen other major characters jostle for our attention, their doings cleverly organized by Sono in a chaptered structure laden with flashbacks and asides that owes not a little to Quentin Tarantino. Mass murder, child abuse, castration ... lesbians, transvestites, parakeets ... Yet the jokes stop when the film stops for several minutes to allow Yu's schoolgirl obsession, Yoko, to harangue his failure to truly love by shouting 1 Corinthians 13 at him in one long take: "Love is patient. Love is kind." Did I mention the parakeets?
Sept. 2-8, 2011

 
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