This four-hour opus about the fury of love and the love of fury is ritually fascinating, often excessive and, with a caution the film wields like a blade, achingly poignant. "Based on true events"—as are most of films by Japanese auteur Shion Sono, (Cold Fish and Suicide Club included)—Love Exposure begins with the tragic death of a good mother and wife. Her son survives his orphaning as well as can be expected, but her husband seeks solace in priesthood, and his turn towards goodness reaps nothing by drama. Well into his adolescence, Yû (Takahiro Nishijima) is too busy learning to earn the approval of his father, whose quiet care of his son is undermined by his more dedicated marriage to Jesus. When a woman enters the picture (Sono regular Makiko Watanabe) Dad first handles her hysterics with an appropriate distance, but the hot mess she is boils over onto his lap and then into his bed and well into his home, ousting Yû, who can only interact with dad in confession. Naturally his misdeeds garner some attention, and provoke dad to act like a father. So Yû's petty crimes evolve into epic upskirt photography (handled with monk-like dedication, ninja skill and, ironically, no lust whatever), and this is how he earns the audience of the resident homewrecker, a leader in the local cult that threatens the sway of the Catholic Church in the community and in Yû's family. To make matters worse, Yû meets the girl of his dreams: Yôko (Hikari Mitsushima), a virgin who exercises her virtuous vigilance through violence against men—Hit-Girl couldn't compete. Yôko is obstacle #1 in the cult's wholesale takedown of Yû's priestly dad, and her awareness of Yû's surprisingly monastic upskirt business only makes him less attractive to her. It's a shame, but love between the strong willed is never pretty, especially when the passions threaten to consume the lovers and not just galvanize the romance. Sono likes to depict a Japan full of families that must be survived and social orders that nurse survivors back to health—here, parents take prisoners and love is a battlefield. If that speaks to you, this is four hours that will assail your confusion and fan your flame at once. A baptism by fire indeed.
Distributor: Olive Films
Cast: Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Andô, Hiroyuki Onoue, Yûko Genkaku, Makiko Watanabe
Director/Screenwriter: Shion Sono
Producer: Haruo Umekawa
Genre: Action/Romance; Japanese-language, subtitled
Running time: 237 min.
Release date: September 2 ltd.