This year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema is also about audacity and novelty. A perfect example is Sion Sono’s extravagant Hip-hop futuristic gangster musical presented at the opening night of the FNC’s 10 years old program “Temps O” , an adaptation of Santa Inoue’s 1993 manga Tokyo Tribe 2.
Foul-mouthed octogenarian rappin’ n’ scratching grandmothers. Abrasive, gold-laminated 3D holographic shamans. A scene -tealing human-beatbox waitress, buxom yakuza mistresses, sex-crazed adolescents, breakdancing ninja dervishes, and tank-wielding Shibuya henchmen. All these ingredients and more are present in the latest dish of neon-lit lunacy from Japanese provocateur Sion Sono, a filmmaker with a long and distinguished relationship with the London Film Festival following exposure for his earlier cult cuts Cold Fish, Exte: Hair Extensions, and Why Don’t You Play in Hell?. His latest film, Tokyo Tribe, is another one for the midnight movie crowd: a delirious contemporary musical based on the popular manga by Santa Inoue, it’s a phantasmagorical pop art pastiche of the American rhythms of Streets of Fire, West Side Story, and The Warriors.
In this outrageous action opus from writer/director Sion Sono, an ambitious young film director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) gets caught in the middle of a bloody Yakuza war sparked by the vengeful wife of a powerful crime boss who is sent to prison after massacring several of her husband’s rivals. The plot is so convoluted, your head will spin when trying to piece it all together. In short, it bounces back and forth between Mitsuko (Fumi Nakaido), a former child star and the daughter of the kingpin, and a group of independent, but talented guerrilla filmmakers who call themselves the FUCK Bombers. Mitsuko’s father, one of her biggest fans, wants to satisfy her dream of becoming a movie star before his wife is released from prison. Ten years after the young rebel filmmaker Hirata makes a prayer to the Movie God, his wish is finally answered when The FUCK Bombers are offered a chance of a lifetime to shoot an epic 35mm samurai/yakuza feature film starring Mitsuko. The F*** Bombers convince the Muto and Ikegama clans to settle their differences on camera. The two rival groups of gangsters agree and volunteer to be both the film crew and the extras. The film – and the film within a film’s climax — is a prolonged and elaborate bloodbath in which the men slaughter one another on camera for the benefit of a group of struggling filmmakers.
Fans of transgressive cinema were overjoyed to see Sion Sono’s latest atrocity appear on the London Film Festival schedule. The Japanese malcontent is almost as prolific as his countryman Miike Takashi, both of them delivering bold and challenging freshly wrought movies year in, year out. After satirizing emerging fads and consumerism in Suicide Club and taking a skewed look at teen romance, religion and the Japanese nuclear family in Love Exposure, he injects a further dysfunctional analysis throughout Cold Fish, a serial killer-themed tale on the surface that obscures a lurking lampoon on present notions of masculinity, progeny and the contemporary status of morality in Japanese society.
Acclaimed director Shion Sono may still be fresh off the debut of his Guilty Of Romance, which premiered at Cannes earlier this year, but only four months later, he is back again. This time around, Sono brings an adaption of Minoru Furuya’s psychological thriller manga Himizu, a twisted tale of a middle-school boy’s state of mind and how he deals with stressful situations. The good news is, Sono’s latest most resembles his four hour long countercultural romantic masterpiece, Love Exposure. The bad news is a good portion of the film’s running time is played at an almost unbearable high volume, with most of the cast shouting their dialogue. Needless to say, either bring some ear plugs or sit far away from the loudspeakers.
In Guilty of Romance, Sion Sono’s female protagonist, Izumi, is established as submissive. This quality permeates throughout the film and especially in the early scenes, she is presented as a docile and obedient housewife compliant to all of her husband’s desires. Sion Sono exaggerates and extrapolates on this quality, building his narrative around submission, masochism and sadism and one woman’s descent into depravity.
In this outrageous action opus from writer/director Sion Sono, an ambitious young film director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) gets caught in the middle of a bloody Yakuza war sparked by the vengeful wife of a powerful crime boss who is sent to prison after massacring several of her husband’s rivals. The plot is so convoluted, your head will spin when trying to piece it all together. In short, it bounces back and forth between Mitsuko (Fumi Nakaido), a former child star and the daughter of the kingpin, and a group of independent, but talented guerrilla filmmakers who call themselves the FUCK Bombers.
It can be fascinating to see how different parts of the global film community plug into the playpen of cinema history, deconstructing genres and clichés and pulverizing storytelling platitudes that are the trademarks of lowest common denominator product. Sion Sono bullies his way into this arena with his new film culled from a long established script. It’s a playful and carnage-strewn valentine to Asian cinema contortions, in his extremely funny and acutely observed Why Don’t You Play In Hell?.
In Kimyô na sâkasu there isn’t just a twist, there are a series of twists that culminate in one mamma jamma of a twist ending. Again, judgment of a twist comes down to how it is executed and how it affects the story. Kimyô na sâkasu is a film where every one of its twists is merited and makes for a far more interesting viewing experience.