2008; written and directed by Sion Sono; 237 mins
Did your last trip to the cinema not contain enough Catholicism, Terrorism, Mistaken Lesbianism, Ninja-based Up-skirt photography or patricidal castration? Don’t get me wrong, I loved Selma but I was left somewhat wanting on certain fronts…
Just setting up the plot of this hook, line and sinker of a movie takes about one of it’s four hours (Check out Wikipedia – some brave soul has made a pretty good fist of it). So to boil it down to it’s essential elements, in searching for some sort of communication with his priest father, Yū (Takahiro Nishijima) attempts to become the most sinful person who ever lived; in doing so, he meets the girl of his dreams, Yōko (Hikari Mitsushima). What follows is the increasingly batty attempts of both fate, family and the jealous Aya (who is also in love with Yu) to keep them apart by way of kidnap, brainwashing, terrorism and x number of plot twists of which Shakespeare would be proud.
Poet turned filmmaker, Sion Sono, apparently suffers none of the intellectual posturing that so often ruins surrealist cinema. In this most warped of Classical romances, we find a battle cry for love and romance amidst a world increasingly hamstrung in said areas by the old strictures of religion and societal responsibility and the encroaching isolationism of the Internet age (Rack Appreciation Society, take note). Moreover, it never drags. At the aforementioned epic runtime, it is swept along with that manic East-Asian energy that Western filmmakers just cannot seem to match and rides that knife edge all the way through to it’s breathless conclusion!
An epic romance is nothing, however, without it’s central characters and it is all credit to it’s cast, in particular Nishijima and Mitsushima that they shoulder this utterly off-the-scale love saga with such charm and believability. Complimented by cinematography that makes the perfect mid-point between Terry Gilliam and late-period Michael Mann and an unhinged tone that really does have the courage of it’s convictions, you have a genuinely singular work!