The Pervert, the Feminist and God. (Part One: LOVE EXPOSURE)

Warning: Contains Love Exposure plot spoilers

This weekend I went an saw two films that both got me thinking about three themes: Perversity, the feminine psyche, and God. I haven’t done a well thought out film analysis on here and in fact haven’t done any proper cinematic analysis in over a year, so forgive me if I’m a bit rusty in my rhetoric. The films I saw were Sion Sono’s Love Exposure and Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. I’ll first address Love Exposure in this blog, before addressing Antichrist in another.

Here goes:

Once we’d all gone into the cinema and settled in for Love Exposure, the projectionist walked in and said: “Right, hands up who didn’t realise this film was four hours long”. One of the things that drew me to this film in the first place was its longer-than-usual running time. I’ve been drawn to these longer films in the past and have been absolutely satisfied by their complexity and their ability to hold audiences’ attentions. Standard feature length films are designed to allow exhibitors to show the most profitable number of sessions in a day. TV has shortened our attention spans into episodic segments too, and the internet has provided us with so much content that if you’re not brief, most users will click away in an attempt to find précis pieces. So it was refreshing to sit captivated in a cinema for hours attempting to pick through the complexities of Love Exposure.

To summarise the plot is about as complex as trying to unpack its themes. Essentially, there are five key characters, each of whom are (to borrow from the vernacular) quite seriously fucked up. The following character descriptions come from an article on The Auteurs:

Tetsu (Atsuro Watabe) turns to the priesthood after the death of his saintly wife, but when he falls for an emotionally unstable convert named Saori (Makiko Watanabe), he begins to transfer his own guilt toward his teenage son Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) through a sadistic confessional ritual. As Tetsu becomes increasingly irritated with his otherwise good-natured son’s venial sins, Yu graduates to more asocial behaviour, leading him to a Zen master who teaches the fine art and skill of upskirt panty photography. Despite proving to be a quickly-learned expert, Yu meets his greatest adversary Koike (Sakura Ando), an auspicious cocaine pusher as well as the founding member of a cultish deviation of Christianity called The Zero Church. Finally, there’s Saori’s step-daughter Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima), a gorgeous, combative young woman whose searing hatred of the opposite sex gives way only to Kurt Cobain, and later Jesus Christ, after Saori shows her the similarities between the two men. Everything culminates at the first hour mark, dubbed "The Miracle."

With that in mind, I’ll move to thematics.

Religion:

As you’re watching the film, you find yourself reflecting on religion a lot; especially Catholicism and Evangelicalism. Whatever your personal views on religion, it’s my belief that through Love Exposure, the film makers were presenting a strong case against the absurdity and hypocrisy of organised religion. For example, the father, a Catholic priest, is having an illicit affair with one of his flock. A lover who later goes on to explain to her daughter that she doesn’t masturbate as that’s against her religion. There’s also the issue of committing sins for no other reason than to seek redemption. Yu’s father can not believe that his son has committed no sins and so tells him his sin is that he does not know that he has sinned. This drives Yu to upskirt photography. The ultimate, Original Sin. This discussion off sinning purely to have something to confess has long been the subject of rigorous theological debate.

Then there’s the Zero Church, a cult which is designed to siphon money from it’s members and whose leader is a drug pusher who manipulates Yu and his family for pleasure. The argument here is one of absurdity. The church is displayed to us as being an essentially evil organisation who kill and torture without blinking and who take advantage of those at the lowest ebb of life. The most jaw-grinding part is that this organisation seems strangely familiar, and I don’t think there’s a free country in the world who does not have one such organisation doing the very same thing in broad daylight.

Perversity:

Yu’s decision to embark on a career of upskirt photography is seen by his father as the ultimate perversion. This strikes me as weird. In a film that addresses so many perverse things; rape, incest, molestation, cults, school violence, transvestitism, castration to name but a few. And it isn’t just Yu’s father that finds it offensive, Koike and Yoko, who have both been involved in some of the above also find the peek-a-panty pictures unforgivable. The biggest irony though, is that Yu gets absolutely no sexual pleasure out of taking the pictures, or out of looking at them. He is holding out for his Maria.

Women

The final, but by no means the least significant theme I want to address is how emasculated the male figures are and how dominant the female characters are despite their inward fear of the male. It is the male, or more specifically the father figures in Love Exposure that are the reason why some of these characters are as fucked as they are. In the priest’s case, it’s his battle with the holy father, with Yu it’s his priest father, with Yoko it’s her rapist father and so on and so on. Yet, although the men are the root of pain, they are weak compared with the female characters, and it’s significant to observe that the only time when Yu has any power or influence over Yoko, it’s when he is dressed in drag as Miss Scorpion. It may be a stretch, but I’d would also be prepared to say that the victims of the upskirt peek-a-photos also wield power, as without them there would be no ‘Original Sin’ for Yu to commit.

In case you’re interested in seeing the film, it will probably be available soon in NZ on DVD. In the mean time you can get it on Amazon here. Or watch the trailer below.

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3 Responses to “The Pervert, the Feminist and God. (Part One: LOVE EXPOSURE)”

  1. Absolutely one of the best movies I have ever seen. I am so glad you took me along. And you captured the themes/plot very well here, considering there is so much going on! :) Great post.

  2. […] Three Dice I talk shit, just deal with it. « The Pervert, the Feminist and God. (Part One: LOVE EXPOSURE) […]

  3. […] most bizarre, yet arguably one of the best, films I have seen of late. Read a really good review here, on my fave blog, Three Dice. See the movie trailer (with English subtitles) […]

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