"Love Exposure": "I'm a pervert with dignity" By Enrico Bosten

in 59th Berlinale

by Enrico Bosten

What a success story! A 237-minute movie about a pervert shooting upskirt pictures was this years’ Berlinale-Forum winner of the FIPRESCI Prize! The Internatioanl Forum of New Cinema is one of the three major Berlinale sections with the Competition and the Panorama. It contains a wide range of features and documentaries from around the world, attempting very much to find and show new developments and cinematic approaches. It has — and always had — a close affinity with Japanese Cinema. “Ai no mukidashi” is the original title of Sono Sion’s film that received two prizes, the International Critics Prize and the Caligari Film Prize for the Best Film in the Forum.

Love Exposure alternates effortlessly between romance and religion, sacred love and original sin, pathos and irony, Beethoven and J-Pop. Its characters are full of contradictions. In five acts it develops the terrific story of a Tokyo teen named Yu Honda (Takashiro Nishijima), who promises his religious mother to introduce her to his “Mary” one day, his big love. Unfortunately, his mother dies and Yu must witness his father (Atsuro Watabe) becoming a Catholic priest, which does not prevent his father having a liaison with Kaori (Makiko Watanabe). When Kaori suddenly leaves him, Yu’s dad falls into a deep depression and wishes his son to confess his sins. Yu, who never did anything wrong, feels impelled to appease his father’s religious zeal in improving his sin account. Beginning with small sins he very soon gets to know some young fellows who introduce him into the art of upskirt photography.

»And I walked to where my destiny waited«

Yu becomes a high achiever in this discipline, a real “Hentai”. He takes pictures of schoolgirl underwear from nearly every imaginable position. Casually, his perversion in order to get his father’s attention leads him to his “Mary”. Disguised as Lady Scorpion (yes, Sasori, the revenger!), he helps a girl named Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima) to fight a group of bullies. As a result she falls in love with his alter ego, which leads to a number of amusing confusions and strenuous hidden erections.

Another character enters the stage with Aya Koike (Sakura Ando). Aya is the leader of a religious cult and aims to win Yu’s father, now a popular priest, for her sect. Therefore, she needs the friendship of Yoko, which predestines her to become Yu’s enemy. She is the Bond-like villain with a pet (which is no shark, but a budgie), and in a flashback we find out, that she started her career by castrating her father — out of sheer boredom.

The last act of Love Exposure ends up in a low budget-like version of a Kill Bill-massacre-scene. Yu liberates Yoko from Aya’s sect, again disguised as Lady Scorpion, taking awful revenge. Some other obstacles have to be smoothed out until Yoko finally lies in his arms, citing Corinthian 13 which is pretty long, but speaks solemnly about love.

Love Exposure is in every sense outstanding and intriguingly excessive. Director Sono Sion delivers a wild genre mixture of martial arts and splatter movie, high-school drama and pure love story with a lot of allusions to other movies.

Sono Sion was born in 1961 and gained worldwide popularity with his 1992 feature Suicide Circle. He is also known in Japan for his avant-garde poetry performances.