Love Exposure ★★★½

This is the fourth time now I've seen this movie, and I think it's important to start my review off mentioning this. This review is more like a rabbit hole of my emotions on this film over time of being a fan than a critical look into the film.

Watching Love Exposure is an event, and should be celebrated as much. Get your favorite munchies, get some candy, lots of drinks, and maybe a buddy or two. At almost four hours long, Love Exposure requires a lot of your attention. When it comes to four hour long movies, you often ask yourself if that much time is worth spending watching just one movie. For Love Exposure it almost certainly is.

Sion Sono takes a multi-storied narrative style that flip-flops around, haphazardly spewing character backstories, and side-content everywhere. The impressive part is that they do not feel out of place and the wild, chaotic structure of the story is correctly done.

Talking about Love Exposure is more so talking about Sion Sono as a director as this movie is the culmination of his style in every single way. It takes all the ideas he's ever mingled with and puts them into this cacophony of style and visual storytelling in the way only Sion Sono can accomplish. What is so intoxicating about his work is that in any other directors hands the movie would become this amateur, borderline unwatchable mess. You know when you watch one of his films that it's a Sion Sono production through and through.

With all that being said, I don't think I can stand to watch Love Exposure anytime in the future another time. My first viewing of this movie was an insane and enjoyable experience, but the more I watch this film, I find myself hating it more and more.
Is it due to the run-time? I don't think so, I love long movies and at this point, four hours is chump change for my viewing hours. What about the style? Is it just so in your face that I get exhausted? Maybe? It's impressive showing Sono movies to others when they have no frame of reference to compare him too. It's either the best thing they have ever seen or the most stupid and disgusting. I find that I can never watch two Sion Sono films right after each other as I'm always exhausted and merely put out.
For me, I think it's ultimately his actual physical filmmaking that grates on me. His use of digital cameras and an evident distaste for studio lighting and color grading irks me. This is 100% a personal thing for me as I feel it gives his movies this very dull, flat, amateur, home-brewed style that doesn't always works for the stories he is telling.
The lighting in particular in Love Exposure is quite bad even when he chooses to have dramatic mood lighting everywhere using very cheap color gels. As he keeps making more content, Sono is getting better at lighting in general, but here in this movie, it seems like he's not comfortable without natural light. This again is not necessarily bad for people as this "home-made" style is part of the charm of Love Exposure, but I can say it makes the movie look way more cheap than it should be.

I think part of the charm of Love Exposure is just how wacky and crazy it is that first-time viewings are bound to be the best as once you get over the zany adventure and story, the movie loses a lot of the charm. At some points for me, all the "weird" "pervert" stuff seems pointless and a tacked on story element to just get people to have a more "exaggerated" experience. Sion Sono is never coy or sly with his themes and ideas, instead, he slaps them on your face over and over until you ignore them. That to me is the biggest fault of this movie. Too many times I was rolling my eyes at the religious allegories he was making visually and narratively. But again that's just Sono. His style is aggressive and in your face, and If you don't like that, then I doubt you will ever enjoy any of his works.

I think it says a lot though that I would watch a four-hour long movie more than once as for most people it would be assinine to watch it more than once. It shows to me how unique and awesome this movie experience is. I'll end my rant here on Love Exposure by saying it's a fun time, but giving it a deep, critical thinker eye would ruin this fun movie experience you can have with your friends or yourself. What's that saying, substance over style? Fuck that; Style is substance, depends if you can handle the form.

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