This film was recommended to me when I opened my e-mail and was given an opportunity by a promoter to accept a free screener. So, in order to not waste his time, I read a little about it and it gathered that it was a four hour plus Japanese movie. Sold! First off, I feel I must give this warning for potential watchers of this film. Some of the main themes such as religion, cult and sexuality are brought in to the forefront. If you are uncomfortable with these controversial themes at all, this probably isn’t the movie for you. The director is able to create an effective commentary on religion, loneliness, Japanese society all the while mixing in a lot of body humor, up-skirt shots, and a few lesbian kissing scenes for good measure. If you’re accepting of that fact and willing to hunker down with it in theory, you’re already most of the way there.
It all starts with Yu Honda telling us in narration how he was raised: his mother died instilling in him and Honda’s father a sense of religious purpose. After she dies, Yu’s father becomes a priest, but a snafu comes with Saori forces Tetsu to start a relationship with her. He does, briefly, but then she leaves him for someone else, which turns Tetsu into a bitter pastor. Again, the film is four hours long, so this is the best summary I can give. It’s up to Yu to maintain his own faith as he travels through the underworld in order to find the third girl out and save his family from being converted into the cult. The genre-flux from rom-com to kung-fu movie to melodrama is done effortlessly and as the captive audience, I had no choice but to let the movie take me along for the emotional trip.
Goodness and perversion are the two twin themes throughout the film, just as I’ve said each character is motivated in some ways by love, but they all different definitions of what love is. These definitions are more often than not imposed by some social barrier or psychological scar from childhood. Sono definitely tries to emulate the much en vogue Tarantino Pulp Fiction style of movie and includes a lot of pop culture references, but it does seem a bit much at times and too gratuitous. Still, this 4 hour romantic shock epic is a must see for the fans of Sono’s earlier work or anyone with an adventurous taste in film. Much of the first half is very funny, much of the second half is deadly serious, but it holds the attention throughout. I enjoyed it all, especially the Final Chapter where I genuinely didn’t know how it was going to end.
The best part of this is:this is a true story. On top of the movie being a bit provocative, due to some sensual yet not too sexually explicit scenes, this movie is certainly and undeniably a masterpiece. By the time you’re half way into the film, you find yourself accepting all the sacrilege and values you were brought up to condemn and despise. Forget everything you’ve ever seen before and go on a ride you will never forget. Sion Sono has always been a great name to drop around this website, and this is a first-hand example on why he is regarded as a genius. If you’re into intelligent Japanese cinema done on a huge canvas, this is the place to go. It’s the first four hour movie I’ve ever seen that I sincerely didn’t want to end.