Love Exposure

Love Exposure ★★★★½

Probably the most entertaining 3h 57min film you'll ever see. Don't be put off by the thought of a 4h long Japanese arthouse "romance comedy" because it almost certainly won't be what you expected. Very few modern films are more unique than Love Exposure. It's incredible how a film like this even manages to work. A comedy that will rarely make you laugh out loud. A central romance that hardly even exists throughout most of the film. Goofy action scenes devoid of realism. Completely over-the-top melodrama punctuated with serious dramatic situations. Constant tone mixing; one scene about morality and religion, followed by a scene about an erection and 30 minutes of upskirting. An overbearing message of 'Love beats all'. It is miraculous how it never becomes sentimental or cheesy. If I had only watched some of the scenes alone, I'd think the film looks like cheesy shit I'd hate. But aided by amazing performances and his own genius, Sion Sono somehow manages to blend a tremendously big story, a variety of themes, romance, action, ultraviolence, sexual deviance, arthouse campiness and serious drama.

I have to say I'm still a bit disappointed that the film never reaches the sky-high heights of the first 90 minutes. I was sure I'd rate it 5 stars, but I guess the increasing campiness was too much for me. Considering how much I dislike campy/goofy stuff (especially romance/comedy), I'm surprised I even loved it this much. Haven't been so consistently entertained by a film in a long time.

Sion Sono's authentic style is remarkable. How do you even make a 4h film this fast-paced? Having such a dense plot where something is constantly happening helps, but the camera movement and editing are exceptional. There is no consistency aside from being inconsistent. Some scenes play out in long takes, and some are edited with frenetic cutting. The cinematography is just as inconsistent and gripping. Still shots, shaky hand-held camera, documentary-style camera movement, zooms, slow-mo, split screens, there is almost nothing that Sion Sono doesn't use. Some montages are filmed like music videos, even more so because of the pop songs playing. And those were my favourite parts. Especially because of the amazing soundtrack - 'Hollow Me' is still stuck in my head.

If you can, try to watch this in 1 sitting (or at least in 1 day). 4 hours is a big time investment, but this is the sort of film that rewards an uninterrupted viewing. It certainly doesn't get boring.
I've never seen anything quite like this. Hopefully will be getting into more of Sion Sono's work soon.

Also, interesting stat: this is the film with the most fans (users who have a film in their top 4) per viewer on Letterboxd. The 2nd seems to be A Brighter Summer Day, and 3rd Satantango. Love Exposure is 1st by a pretty decent margin, so use that when recommending this film to people who think a 4h romance comedy might not be their kind of film. (though they might be right, for different reasons)


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