‘Love Exposure’ is a cult film of cult films. It first starts out comically absurd and then it flips everything and turns into a serious drama built on top of the ridiculous elements previously established. This is a movie that wants to play the audience’s emotions – not in a overly manipulative, Hitchcock sort of way, but rather in the fuck everything sort of manner. It is absurd, wonderful and extremely, extremely fun to watch.
The plot is an utter mess. According to the highly accurate information site, wikipedia.com, the film spans 3 hours and 57 minutes, just 3 minutes short of a long, long 4 hours. It plays for the same length, the same hours and minutes as Edward Yang’s masterful epic, ‘A Brighter Summer Day’.
The film’s plot is about a rather innocent and normal teenage boy, Yu Honda (Takahiro Nishijima) who is the son of a catholic priest (Atsuro Watabe). When his father’s girlfriend leaves him, he forces his son to go to the confessional room and confess his sins. Soon, Yu out of things to confess begins to commit sins intentionally just so that he is able to confess and do his father proud. (There are mild narrative spoilers after this bracketed statement. I’m not sure if this mild telling of a plot made clear an hour into the film constitutes as a spoiler considering that the freaking opening title of the film pops up only after 50 minutes has passed.)
And along the way of this narrative, one of the prominent members of a cult, plots a plan to convert Yu and his entire family.
The film starts in a manner which I can only call: over the top holiness. Christian religious imagery fills the screen and the sound of an orchestra and a choir can be clearly heard. The colors are on screen are unworldly, overly saturated with greens and reds.
The set feels cheap. The environment doesn’t really feel real. Instantly, the feeling that there is something wrong with the whole thing is eminent.
The film does not aim for realism, but instead strives for surrealism and absurdism as evidence by its over the top acting, colorful and messy mise-en-scene and a hyper active, handheld and peculiarly framed cinematography.
It is a religious satire, a tale of familial relationships, a display of teenage angst and lust, a touching story of love and most importantly, a display of the art of upskirt photography (Also known as Tosatu). It attempts to mesh the extremes of the genres: comedy, drama, exploitation and romance all together and does so splendidly in the most ridiculous and absurd manner.
But despite my heavy praise for the film, it does have some flaws. It’s near four hour length gets a little tedious at times due to an grandiosely excessive use of absurd moments, found mostly at the first half of the film. While this absurdity is exceedingly enjoyable to watch, a near four hours of it may get tiring. Also, I found myself enjoying the absurd humor at the first half more than the dramatic moments of the second half.
Still, this is a fantastic film, and there are many moments I wouldn’t hesitate to call absolutely genius. However, I do have to warn. ‘Love Exposure’ is first and foremost an exploitation movie. The traits of heavy sex appeal and over the top gore of the exploitation movie genre when coupled with the sensational satire and the rather tasteless gags may leave a very, very, very sour taste in the mouths of most.
Still, if one is willing to be open minded and to leave their morals out the door, the experience of watching the film may be, perhaps their longest and craziest time ever when watching a film.