ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
"An erection from my heart."
Each time I struggle to write a review, I'm tempted by the cheap trick of framing whatever I write with the premise that I struggled to write it, appealing for sympathy from you, my dear reader, to understand that what you're about to read is woefully inadequate to the task of comprehensively encapsulating the movie in question, and normally I resist the temptation, but never has such a cheat been more necessary. There's just so much movie here!
And while my inclination is to try to match its cinematic length with written length, I'm already a long-winded old fart as it is, and maybe the actual challenge is to distill the film down to its primary components without discussing the minutiae of each narrative turn. Or maybe this is just another excuse for my perceived inadequacy — guess we'll never know, cuz it's time to talk about Love Exposure!
The basic structural framework of Love Exposure follows sexuality's path through repression to perversion, and then it subsequently follows the pervert's path from alienation to acceptance. Yū Honda grows up catholic with a strict pastor for a father who forces Yū to confess his sins until he ends up sexualizing his own moral transgressions. Likewise, on a broader scale, human sexuality is always filtered through social institutions (here: family, religion), a form of external communal repression which is internalized as psychological repression.
Sexuality then becomes perverted as our mind attempts to navigate the deadlock of having its own sexuality repressed (e.g. we move from the repression of "Don't you imagine for a minute that you're good!" to the perversion of "Are you a bad boy? Yes, you're a bad boy!"). Yū becomes an upskirt photographer because it provides the outlet he needs to translate the language of his sexual desire into something his father and his church can understand (even if only negatively). This is the primordial love exposure: our love is exposed to society, and society in turn exposes our love to the world. Repressive social institutions create perversion and then alienate perverts for the very same perversion they created.
Thus perverts become outcasts, and, as outcasts, seek out the company of other perverts, forming a fellowship of perversion, a new community without social repression. Yū finds new family with his friends in the upskirt photography business, and he eventually finds love with fellow repressed pervert Yōko Ozawa. This desire for a new community explains the temptation of the cult: like this community of perverts, the cult offers a belonging without judgment, but unlike the community of perverts it is just another repressive social institution, one that simply recognizes its outsider status. The cult it tempting because it also offers itself as a fellow repressed pervert.
Like the family and like the church, however, the cult still tries to cure you of your perversion ("They kindly reeducated me."), and this reeducation is a conversion therapy more obscene than any perversion. The only true belonging is with other outsiders, outsiders who accept you with your perversions, not in spite of them. "Who cares about the standards of normal people?" "I'm a pervert, but not a phony. I'm a pervert with dignity!" True belonging and acceptance are when we feel safe revealing our inner secrets, our hidden selves, when we feel safe being exposed to love, safe in our own Love Exposure.
Love Exposure is Sono's Ode to the Freaks, his love letter to perversion in all its polymorphous forms. "All perverts were created equal." "We all sin, it's only natural."
i know it's uncool to do this, but i work as an amateur catholic upskirt photographer. if you'd like to help me expose the church as a cult and unite the perverts, please check out my patreon. i literally text my friend every time someone new subscribes, and he hates sin