Tarantino and Censorship: Post Podcast Homework

On this week’s podcast, part one of a two-part discussion on controversial films, I failed to mention Japanese cinema, and some of the more extreme films that hail from that part of the world. Plenty of adult-oriented anime films (from Wicked City to Perfect Blue and the various Overfiend instalments), and many other live action films have hit raw nerves in audiences. Battle Royale for instance. Or Audition. Or this week’s podcast “homework”: Sion Sono’s Love Exposure.

There are many adjectives that could describe this film: bizarre, gripping, perverse, profane, melancholy, spiritual, satirical, twisted, creepy, sweet, surreal, romantic, sadistic, melodramatic, ultraviolent, funny, frightening, moving… and obviously controversial. Even with such a list, I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of this genuine cinematic one-off. Love Exposure is an extraordinarily singular experience. It is also absolutely not for the easily offended, as you’ll see when I attempt to describe it.

The plot involves a very strange, fetishist love story. A deeply peculiar love triangle develops between a disturbed Catholic teenage boy with a penchant for upskirt photography, a misandric teenage girl, and a manipulative third girl who attempts to recruit people into a sinister, pseudo-Christian cult. The sexual elements are undoubted perverted, but are also dealt with in (I would argue) a non-exploitative way.

The second half of the story focuses more on the cult and their brainwashing shenanigans. Whilst undoubtedly satirical, these sequences are disturbing, and ultimately exceptionally violent and bloody. Yet the rather sweet love story is never lost sight of, and the stunning final shot is an undoubted punch-the-air moment.

What is even more surprising, are the strong Christian elements woven into the narrative. One extended scene on a beach even features a lengthy recitation from Corinthians, between two of the principle characters, set to the recurring melancholy musical motif of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony (2nd Movement) – a piece of music I can’t hear without getting tears in my eyes, for very personal reasons.

At four hours long, this requires a setting aside a large chunk of viewing time, but it isn’t boring for one second. In fact, for the non-cinematically vanilla, not easily offended viewer, this is a must-see.

Samantha Stephen