Love Exposure (2008)
By: Rip on January 17, 2011  | 
Eastern Eye | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Japanese DD 2.0 | 237 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Sion Sono
Starring: Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Ando
Screenplay: Sion Sono
Country: Japan
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Japanese director, Sion Sono, is a film maker most famous for his cult flick Suicide Club and his work has defied categorization ever since. Beginning his career making gay porn, to say that Sono is an unconventional director would be understatement. Even when interviewed, he comes off as little crazy and it would be easy to write the man off as some weirdo who conned his way in to becoming a top tier arthouse director simply by confusing all the right people. But Sion Sonno is a gifted director and much of his work is deeply personal, frequently touching and often graphically violent. He has since proved that Suicide Club was no fluke, with a handful of multi-layered films that are impossible to pigeonhole and all featuring his trademark love for voice-over narration and split narratives, devices one may see as familiar, but rarely as effectively employed as they are by Sonno. Nowhere is this more evident than in his much lauded 2008 feature, Love Exposure, an epic four hour action/drama/comedy and a film that shows Sion Sono taking all his gifts as a director and channeling them in to what may very well be his finest, most accessible work to date. And like much of it, just as difficult to describe...

Tetsu Honda (Atsuro Watabe), Catholic priest, and his son, Yu (Takahiro Nishijima), are both 'perverts'; the priest for having had relations with a woman while a priest and Yu for being an up-skirt photographer (!). Aya Koike (a seductively creepy Sakura Ando), a female regional director for a fast-growing cult, the Church of Zero, is a puritanical sociopath who becomes obsessed with Yu and so concocts a plan to convert Yu's Catholic family as an example to others that the Church of Zero is the religion to join. The love of Yu's life, Yoko (the impossibly cute Hikari Mitsushima), who is the adopted daughter of the woman Yu's father is marrying, becomes the means by which Koike will dominate the family. While the damage has been done, to an extent, by the first hour, by making the connections between many of the characters so fragile, based on the mere use of the phrase 'original sin,' or on one character accidentally appearing like the Virgin Mary, the remaining three hours focus entirely on the emotions and relationships of these characters. Yu's unrequited love for Yoko and the machinations of Koike, as well as a subplot involving the Catholic Church's refusal to allow a priest to marry, give Love Exposure a very solid emotional core and one that is a wild ride all the way…

Now, this is just the basic setup for what becomes, to quote the Daily Express blurb on the dvd cover, "A graphic mixture of violence, heartache, sex and kung fu!" It's also happens to be very thought provoking and outrageously funny. But, then there's that four hour running time... And sure, Love Exposure, will divide audiences by its sheer length alone. In recent times, there has been a growing trend amongst directors seemingly falling in love with their own work, rendering them reluctant to make cuts and often resulting in unnecessarily long films. Whilst Love Exposure is not a movie without flaws in terms of editing, credit should be given where it is due. For a four hour film, there is rarely a dull moment. There are occasional scenes that don't add much to the plot, yet Sono manages to keep the audience enthralled by examining all the minute details of the world in which he has created. Taking place within a heightened state of reality, Sono's world is full of lost souls, and at no point ever do these characters become dull or uninteresting. The film consistently holds the attention, with a weirdly captivating style that swerves relentlessly from madcap comedy to dark and twisted horror. Yes, it's all here folks! Panty-peeking kung fu, lesbianism, porno conventions, cross dressing, samurai swords, pratfalls, child abuse, lots of ultra violence and just generally every kind of perversion imaginable. And yet, the whole thing still comes off as oddly touching and sweet.

Special mention should be made of the committed cast too, especially Sakuro Ando who plays the evil drug dealing school girl and cult worshipper, Aya Koike. She's sick, twisted and violent, and the young Ando absolutely revels in the role, stealing every scene she's in. But, the remaining cast members plunge themselves into their roles too, embracing every taboo-busting turn that their characters take. And when it comes to taboo's, every single one is broken in Sion Sonno's Love Exposure.
At 237 minutes, the film is wisely spread over two discs and looks just fine. It appears to have been shot on digital video, but still maintains a film-like appearance. Colours are strong and the overall picture is sharp and clear.
Whilst there is sadly no 5.1 audio option, the 2.0 Japanese surround track is good and gets the job done. Optional English subtitles are included.
Extra Features
Only the film's trailer is featured, along with some others for various Eastern Eye titles. The R2 UK release has a one hour documentary and it's very disappointing that we've missed out on that in R4.
The Verdict
Love Exposure has stayed with me ever since viewing it and it should be seen, and experienced, the next chance you get. Highly entertaining and highly recommended.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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