Kimyô na sâkasu (2005) Poster

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A disturbing masterpiece that draws you in.
songbee18 September 2008
This is the first of its kind (I'm sure there are more like this movie out there) that I've seen, so I don't consider my vote fair.

During the movie, I had mixed feelings of: this is disgusting, this is a masterpiece, this is amazing, this is horrendous.

Right after watching the movie, I definitely thought, "What did I just spend my 2 hours watching?"

However, I believe this is an amazing film. Even though it's disturbing, the story is great, the film is excellently shot - the film IS motivated to tell that story, however weird it may be.

I recommend this movie, especially if you're looking for something new, something to think about; if you're studying film or if you're just bored. :)

My last comment is: I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and I recommend it to others.
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Principal Pervert
ElijahCSkuggs27 January 2007
I knew absolutely nothing going into this flick. I was recommended this movie by a friend who has some unique tastes in movies. I tend to enjoy everything he likes, so I decided to blind buy this and give it a shot. What followed was a movie that's bizarre, extreme, and kind of confusing.

Strange Circus starts out as a story about a quiet young girl named Mitsuko. One day she hears some strange noise coming from her parents room. Curiosity gets the better of her and she witnesses them having sex. Her Dad catches her in the act and from that moment this movie gets really crazy. I'd rather not tell you what follows, but it's definitely not for the average movie-goer. At some points Strange Circus gets pretty confusing, you are led to question who's who and what's happening. By the end of the movie many things have risen to the surface, but there are still aspects to ponder about. Which is rare these days, there aren't many movies when the credits are almost done rolling and you're still sitting there thinking about what just happened. Personally I appreciate when movies do this. It's not frustratingly challenging, but it definitely will keep you up a little longer.

Strange Circus was extremely well acted, well directed (same director as Suicide Club) and well told. It's also sick, perverted and down right screwy. If you're into extreme movies, Japanese movies, challenging movies, or just looking for something different, give this baby a shot. 8.5 outta 10
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Incendiary sexual shocker is a return to the ero-gro of the early 80's
fertilecelluloid27 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This plays like an unearthed Nikkatsu shocker from the early 80's. Sion Sono, the director of "Suicide Club", has thrown his ero-gro hat into the ring and delivered a very impressive, incendiary shocker that blends Norifumi Suzuki with David Lynch. A twelve year old girl (Rie Kuwana) is being sexually abused by her monstrous father (Issei Ishida) and forced to watch her parents screw while locked inside a cello case. As the abuse intensifies, the girl copes with it by mentally becoming her mother. At the same time, the man's wife (Masumi Miyazaki) is becoming insanely jealous of the girl and has started to abuse her, too. This simple set-up is merely the launching pad for an operatic, grotesque, confronting shocker. The "strange circus" of the title is literal and metaphorical. There is a burlesque-style club where an MC introduces the film's major characters; there is also a wild sexual circus happening in the abused girl's home after her mother mysteriously bows out. "Strange Circus" is confusing at times and a little too clever for its own good, but it is a true sexual horror film that goes places few films do. It has a score and tone that reminded me of Norifumi Suzuki's masterpiece, "Beautiful Girl Hunter", and Sono contrasts grisly depravity with great beauty. The film won me over and I'm jaded as hell.
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No you're not a pervert, ...
kosmasp26 April 2007
... if you like this movie. Neither is the director ... at least I don't think he is. If you watch this movie you might ask yourself these questions, because this is not your usual fair, it is extreme and out there.

I don't even know what to make of it. But I do know, that even though I was disgusted at times, I also was amazed by this movie. Which says much about the craft of the director on work here, who will take you on an emotional journey.

This journey will not be an easy one and you probably won't enjoy it (in fact, you are supposed not to enjoy it). And although you know you watch bad things (even with children involved in them, but never explicitly shown), you get the feeling that this movie is great. Not for the faint of heart then, but definitely for people who are open to challenges!
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Amazing, mind bending and great story
Alex De Leon2 February 2014
I started to watch this because Netflix suggested it. I used to love to go to the movies and look for good Hollywood material but nowadays it's scarce. This movie (and the ones like it) are the reason why I still believe movies are art.

This is a piece that will make you struggle to find out what is actually happening. As other reviewers mentioned, it does have its piece of sex, incest and violence, but it is never the focus. The movie uses those resources to make you understand what the protagonist is going through.

It will linger in your mind for several days, and I think that is the greatest compliment a work can get.

It starts a little slow, but it gets better... all the way to the end when you actually think it is going too fast. Do yourself a favor and watch this with an open mind. It's like pure oxygen in the middle of Hollywood pollution.
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dead-valley20 November 2006
Being as there is only 1 current review (as of November 2006), and a bad one at that, I feel compelled to write something. If you like to have a director mess with you, don't pass this one up. I'm not sure that this tops 2002's Suicide Circle (or Suicide Club) from Sono, but it's up there. I won't go into the plot here, but if you're into psychological thrillers or even more specifically the recent Asian stuff with those lovable twists like Takashi Miike's Audition or Chanwook Park's Oldboy (which I thought was overrated, though still good), this here's for you. Definitely not for those who would be offended by an underage actress involved in explicit scenes. What else? The cinematography in the first half is good too, as there are some nice shots during the horrific atmosphere of the story of Michuko. The 2nd half is all about the *unfolding* so to speak. I definitely need to watch it again.
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Disturbing, Sick, Bizarre but also Absolutely Original
Claudio Carvalho4 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In Tokyo, the twelve year-old girl Mitsuko accidentally sees her parents having sex in their bedroom and her dysfunctional and pervert father Ozawa Gozo, who is the principal of her school, forces her to see her mother Sayuri having intercourse with him hidden inside a cello case. Then Osawa rapes Mitsuko and forces her mother to see the incestuous intercourse with their daughter. Osawa lives with Mitsuko and Sayuri and has sex with them, and Sayuri is jealous of her own daughter. The dysfunctional family is affected first by a murder and then by an attempt of suicide.

But the bizarre story is actually a novel written by the disabled writer Taeko that uses a wheelchair to move. When her publisher visits her with his new hire Yuji, he gets close to her and helps Taeko to find the truth about her past. But in the end, which one is the dream?

"Kimyô na Sâkasu", a.k.a. "Stranger Circus", is a disturbing, sick, bizarre but also absolutely original film by Shion Sono. The acting, direction and cinematography are top notch and the challenging plot is unpredictable, with many twists and inconclusive, and it is almost impossible to make a comment without spoiler. I love this type of movie, but I do not dare to recommend it for average viewers. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): Not Available
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plsletitrain13 February 2011
The movie is weird, insane, controversial, challenging and as the title itself says, strange.

I was preparing my brain to watch this because after reading the reviews, I knew I'm up for a good psychological thriller. And yes, to anyone who hasn't seen this yet, you should set your mind that you'll be watching a masterpiece. This will set your bars higher for psychological thriller movies. You need to focus and go beyond the erotic scenes if only to find out that this movie is well-crafted, well-thought, and well-directed one. This branch of movie-making(what they refer to as ero-gro) has kinda grown on me. Perfected by a montage of scenes and a puzzle of events integrated for a quest to bind the movie to a whole, make sure you don't miss a scene. The movie features a play of scene-shifting..luring and confusing the viewers which is a plus for those who have short attention span. From a sex scene you are then transported to a circus ride, cut to a girl who becomes her mother, to a picture of a lifeless naked woman, to a bunch of circus performers, and I could go on and on.

This movie is an extremist one. It will show the sex scenes leaving nothing to imagination, steeled by realistic moans and very accurate portrayal by the actors. If the story can't keep you up, the amount of sex will. It will also show extreme levels of no-holds-barred morbidity, goriness and insanity. It also depicts extreme levels of themes only a masterpiece could feature. Actually, I found the movie creepy. No there are no white ghosts or jump scares on this one, but creepy in a way that you would start questioning the sanity of the director. He's not human.

Gathering the viewers' attention through a sequence of events that could possibly be the worst thing that could happen to a family, the movie caters to viewers of every genre, of any age. What I actually find appalling is having a minor(the girl who played young Mitsuko) play the part of having to witness and digest such morbid scenes. Isn't that disturbing to begin with?

The premise of the film as a psycho-thriller is to bring out the inquisitive, theoretical selves of the watchers. You start questioning why did such scene happen? Why did such character say those lines? Which one was the dream? Which one was reality? What's the bigger picture? Who's who? Who's THE ultimate character? This movie is a challenge. And the ending steeled it. The movie possesses the basic protocols of good movie-making; that is, a good beginning to introduce the conflict and hold the viewers' attention, a climax which highlights the main conflict/s and leaving a handful of questions to our minds, and a surreal ending that will answer these questions(not to mention leave us dumbfounded). I can't even write a synopsis of the movie. Just thinking of writing it seems very exhaustive. I can't put into words the details of the movie. That's how complicated and well-developed the story is. Story-telling won't do.

The themes of the movie are also as disturbing as the scenes itself. Incest is the most noticeable theme of the movie. But the inclusion of other minimal themes (but still disturbing as they are) such as dismemberment, revenge, self-denial and what appears to be schizophrenic characters all add to the complexity of the movie. Hell even the soundtrack was creepily weird. What brought this movie to its high level though was the acting. Its like everything just fell into place. A deep story and stellar acting from the cast(especially Masumi Miyazaki who perfectly played 3 personas), this movie is undeniably a masterpiece. 10/10.
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Sada Abe, Mapplethorp, and Giger walk into a bar...
Joseph Sylvers12 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Speaking of violence, Sion Sono(director of Suicide Club)'s latest film Strange Circus, is an erotic horror story, steeped in incest, pedophilia, trans-sexuality, and screaming. Sometimes were in a carnival, other times walking down a blood covered hallway that looks like the inside of a giant monster, other times within a cello case watching our parents do the deed, or gazing at a creaky carousel which never quite works. These images are hammered down over and over again, punctuated always by more crying and screaming, until like many modern Japanese horror films, the narrator is proved to be unreliable and then identity's of the characters go switching around. Its a lot more focused than Suicide Club, more visual texture and beauty, cleaner, crisper performances mostly. I've heard this mentioned as part of the "ero-goru"(erotic grotesque nonsense) a growing genre in Japan in porn, literature, and film; Giger, Lovecraft, and Sada Abe mixed in a wet dream. This film does attempt to delve not only into the genre, but the production of the genre itself(who writes it and why), however by the end, were given a revenge story that doesn't seem to fit well with the subdued nihilist realism of the rest of the movie, unlike Suicide Club it doesn't invoke laughter or a sense of the tragicomic or socially relevant satire, it's just grotesque, then kinda stupid, still pretty, but less erotic. It almost had me, but it's insistence on cliché in the end(chainsaws and chains and fake limbs), make it lose any redemptive value. Gozu and Visitor Q, are better samples of the genre, if better is the right word.
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Visual delirium
Polaris_DiB27 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Sion Sono is much better known for Suicide Club (aka Suicide Circle), but devoted fans are probably well acquainted with this one, too. Coming out within a year before Stranger than Fiction, Strange Circus is a movie about an author writing a story that just so happens to be true... maybe... or not? Is she dreaming, is she getting obsessed with her characters, or is this just a repressed past? With any answer, it's still a great movie. Visually, it's beyond stunning... the wet red walls are enough to give you nightmares all on their own, but Sono also juxtaposes the story with circus imagery that increases the Theatre of the Absyrd feeling to almost delirious proportions.

And quick kudos to the acting. Yes, the main character shines... but Issei Ishida as Yuji is probably one of the most singularly beautiful movement actors since The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. The grace and control is better than dancing... a good reflection of the directing, which flows along a track exciting as a roller coaster but smooth as ice-skating.

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I can safely say that it could not even be shown legally in the UK
christopher-underwood22 August 2007
This is a very fine and brave film but so extreme and at times confusing that it lost me at times. I see the film has won awards in Montreal and Berlin but I can safely say that it could not even be shown legally in the UK. Even apart from the extended sequences of implied and actual child sex abuse the degree of violence, especially when shown in a sexual context would have the jolly BBFC boys in somewhat of a lather. With all the effort put in by the director and leading actress, Masumi Miyazaki, who is sensational in her roles, it is a shame that the resulting film is not more coherent. Possibly it is because the material is so extreme that I tended to distance myself a little and thereby lose the plot a little, but only a second viewing will settle that one and I'm not up to that right now!
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Fitting title
polysicsarebest20 March 2008
For the first 30 minutes or so of Strange Circus, you might be fooled into thinking you're going to be watching a linear story of child abuse, weird sex, cello cases, and circuses. Then, throughout the next 30 minutes, you wait and wait, hoping that the story of an insane, schizophrenic, handicapped woman who is writing a novel might lead to some compelling connection with the first part of the film. Finally, at the last 30 minutes, you grow frustrated that nothing adds up, nothing makes any sense, and you've just wasted 90 minutes of your life on what feels like a director making up a plot as he goes along.

I'm no stranger to this kind of cinema, and I am also familiar with this director's other works, so I kind of knew what to expect going into this. However, as the plot teeters from needlessly complex to just needless, I couldn't help but feel that the director himself didn't know what was happening in this film, throwing in twist after twist near the end for no good reason than to make the film more, um, "strange".

This film is loaded with some great imagery such as class rooms filled with bloody walls and a coffin filled with flowers that is set on fire. There are even some disturbing, thought-provoking sequences peppered throughout, and I'm not usually disturbed in the slightest by anything in films. The acting and music are fine all around. The pacing of film can be a bit disorienting, though the hyperkinetic editing won't be shocking to anyone familiar with these types of movies. Basically, without spoiling the plot, I'll say that the film is told in a completely nonlinear fashion, jumping from past to present to future without any regard to the viewer, and it is a deeply convoluted plot involving a) a principal having sex with his daughter and b) the loss of identity.

It's definitely worth a watch, though don't expect to walk out of this one understanding anything. I typically hate the term "Lynch-like", but a lot of the film will seem familiar to Lynch fans, as it explores many themes Lynch has been trying to cram down our throats for the past decade. Though whereas Lynch makes nonsense compelling and somehow holds his films together by a thread, the nonsense here is simply that -- nonsensical.

Not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination and actually quite compelling for most of the running length. A shame about the final half hour or so, though. I often see this film recommended to fans of challenging cinema -- I dunno, this film didn't really challenge me, it just frustrated me. Worth a look.
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compelling and beautiful nightmare
Gomer Pyle9 May 2011
When i saw Suicide Club for the first time i knew Sion Sono would come to be a director i would look out for, and with Strange Circus he delivers, that's not to say that you will automatically like this one if you loved suicide club, because this is is something different.

If suicide club was his pitch black pulpy look at Japanese culture, this is his nightmarish avant garde look on a dysfunctional family. This is art-house the way it should be, confrontational, engaging and intelligent.

This is at some points extremely unwatchable as it deals with themes such as incest, but the way it is portrayed is absolutely stylish but still jaw droppingly tense.

It reminded me of David Lynch and Alejandro Jorodowsky because of the dreamlike sequences and the constant pondering on what is real and what isn't.

This movie is shot beautifully, even Kubrick came to mind at some scenes. Without spoiling anything i can say that this movie is very open to interpretation and it works and many levels.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes deeply psychological drama, horror and art-house combined), but a warning, this is not for the faint of heart and i can really understand why people would condemn this film as perverted trash (such as people will condemn Lars Von Triers Antichrist), although i genuinely think that anyone with a love for cinema would grasp the deeper things this movie has to offer and will enjoy the beauty in this nightmarish vision.
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Wrong...and not in a good way
AirPlant30 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
12year old Mitsuko is a student at her Father (Gozos) school. She is also the object of his perverse sexual gratification. Gozo locks her inside a cello case and makes her watch him and her mother during their sexual congress. Eventually, Taeko, the mother is persuaded to trade places; she now watches from within as Gozo rapes his daughter. The abuse continues at home and at the school Mitsuko attends where Gozo is headmaster. The dynamic of this malignant relationship is such that Taeko becomes jealous of her daughter and proceeds to physically abuse her whenever Gozo is away. During one particularly frenzied attack, Taeko slips and falls downstairs breaking her neck. Now Mitsuko is co-opted into the role of wife and, unable to endure the unending cycle of abuse, attempts suicide by jumping from a building. Although she survives the fall, she is now confined to a wheelchair. Gozo now sates his rapacious sexual appetite with a string of prostitutes, openly having sex in front of his paralysed daughter. The veracity Mitsukos horrific ordeal is challenged when, the possibility is raised that these events are fictional; taken from the manuscript of a controversial horror authors latest book. The latter part of this movie confronts the viewer with the questions; Who is the author? Where is Gozo? What has become of Mitsuko? The answers to these questions lie in the damaged and fragmented minds of the players. Ultimately, there is a reckoning, with a cruel vengeance brought upon those responsible. I see this movie as being an allegory of the disintegration of Japanese society. Sion Sono returns to themes of loss of personal and group identity first covered in Suicide Club However, I believe that Norikos Dinner Table is his most coherent treatment of alienation and atomisation driven by westernisation Having watched this movie and having sat through the seemingly never-ending making of documentary (where the director provides no insight into his intention except, (he States in the opaque documentary of the making of this movie) 'to make a beautifully grotesque spectacle', my take is that Sion Sono vision is flawed. I get the allegory, I get the beautiful grotesqueness but I cannot accept the imagery of child sexual abuse as portrayed here. In many peoples minds child abuse is a taboo subject, and, rather like the way that the phrase 911 has become iconic, the subject of child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse has become a metaphor for the most unimaginably awful thing that can happen to a human being. This is of course, not the case. The worst thing that can happen to a human being is death, but, as children we point our finger at a playmate we say Bang! and death has now become a metaphor for Game Over, so now, when a filmmaker reaches into their bag of handy shocks there is little left. except for the depiction of children being used for sexual gratification. In the depiction of the abuse. The sexual abuse of children is surprisingly commonplace. As well as my own experience of abuse, it is a sad fact that as I get older, I discover that many of my friends and loved ones have endured abuse.

In reality, children enduring abuse, have voices, they share their fears and hopes with a favourite doll, they cry to their teddy bears, they pray to Harry Potter, They pray to Hello Kitty. This is too raw a nerve to be touched upon by this director, instead, Mitsuko is objectified to little more than an icon; we do not hear her thoughts, we do not bear true witness to the bleakness of her soul. There is some vague voice-over about her home and school being littered with traps but this sounds more like a statement taken from the script notes rather than A genuine voice. I believe that Sion Sono does a great disservice to genuine survivors of abuse when he presents Mitsuko in such a simplified manner. I therefore can not, in all conscience recommend this movie
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Strange and often unsettling.
HumanoidOfFlesh13 September 2007
"Strange Circus" starts out as the story of 12-year-old Mitsuko,who's being sexually abused by her father Gozo and terrorized by her jealous mother Sayuri.Mitsuko is imprisoned in a cello case and forced to watch her parents' intimate liaisons through a peephole.The strange abuse causes Mitsuko to blur the distinction between her mother's pleasure and her own pain.When her mom dies after falling down the stairs,Mitsuko starts believing she is her mother.Sion Sono's return to ero-guro tradition is very stylish and sexually perverse.This strange film even offers lashings of paedophilia on display,fortunately they are not graphic.The carnival atmosphere of circus is well-developed and there is a nice amount of grue.Fans of more dream-like transgressive cinema should give it a look.
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my own interpretation
NaderaSuleiman20 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
After watching so many Sion Sono films I could not help but to notice a very similar plot being repeated in almost every film. And it is "The parent- child conflict". Almost every film has a story about a child tormented by a parent in various ways. Strange Circus without question is definitely one of those films. Strange Circus is a film about how complex, hard and restricting family bonds can be. Sion sono has always been known by how much he hates to conform, he always delves into the extremes and into taboos to bring us the troubled and disturbing emotions he wants to convey to his viewers. This is why his films are hated by many viewers, in many interviews he stated that this is what he really wants, his films to be hated. But I personally find them beyond fascinating!

So here is the interpretation:

As a beginning, Mom (Sayuri) and dad (Ozawa) had sex. The result was that they gave birth to Mitsuko. Who is basically half mom and half dad. Mitsuko was abused by both of them and was forced into their sex life. She became a part of it as she is part of them. Because of sex and through their sex she was both created and demised. Sayuri was reborn in Mitsuko. Mitsuko is Sayuri and sayuri is Mitsuko. Are we clear on that? I hope so... Furthermore,

Mitsuko is also the novelist Taeko. Mitsuku indeed killed her mother Sayuri and took her role as her father's wife and sexual partner. She adapted to this role so much that she thought she was her mother. Now Sayuri's persona living in Mitsuko started feeling guilty for killing the persona and innocence of the real little Mitsuko. So she started believing that Mitsuko was the one being killed and Sayuri has killed her. After the recurrent abuse and neglect by her father Mitsuku killed her father as well (also by throwing him off the stairs). Trying to get rid of the guilt and as a healing process, Mitsuko created a third persona, "Taeko". Taeko is now abused and deranged and she is in constant confusion of who she really is (we have seen her walking normally, we have seen her crippled in a wheelchair, and we have seen her walking around with a wig and sunglasses looking like a complete different person). Taeko acts like a cripple because that what she always felt like (after being raped you feel like you're a torso with no legs and no arms). Taeko\Mitsuko is now a writer, and after writing her story, she comes close to realizing who she really is. Then koji comes into the picture. koji is Mitsuko's silent and reserved fan who she finds interesting and mysterious. He starts hanging out with her all the time and reads her story as she writes it. He even starts giving her ideas for alternate endings. Because Mitsuko is always in confusion and denial of her real identity, she feels like her story needed to have this balanced confusion as well. So she inserts Koji into her story as the real Mitsuko. She wants to believe that real Mitsuko never really died and that she prevailed and came back as a boy to kill both of them to end all their misery. That would have made Mitsuko happy, to have that ending. But instead, we are shown that it was all a dream and koji is just a weirdo who wants to use her to get money from the journalists by exposing her story. The final scene is of the "strange circus" in her mind where all the characters are present and watching as she gets beheaded to represent her final demise and to give an ending to her story. She is finally relieved now believing that Koji is Mitsuko and she never really died, but has been victorious the right way. The way it should have been.

Like mentioned above, Sion Sono repeated the parent-child conflict plot in so many of his films, which leads to the question: Is he really just fascinated by this or has he himself been abused by a parent?? Probably yes … I believe that writing this film was a healing process for Sion Sono himself. He is really mitsuko and he is in constant struggle to not be the dad he hated. The dad we have seen in Himizu, Cold fish, Guilty of Romance and so many other of his films. We, as fans can never know how his childhood really was but I sense in all his writings he was an abused child who lived with a very restrictive father which drove him to become who he is today. He hates some things in his self that were inherited from his dad, but he can't change them because his dad made him. Sion is his father and Sion's father is Sion. They can never escape that. And that is what Strange Circus is all about.
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Strange Circus
Scarecrow-8826 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Strange indeed. Shion Sono's bizarre STRANGE CIRCUS focuses on whether or not the repulsive subject matter of a woman's novel is in fact an autobiograph of her past or mere fantasy warping her sense of reality..seeping into everyday life she begins having a hard time dictating fiction from reality. Masumi Miyazaki is Sono's figurepoint. Rie Kuwana is a twelve year old girl sexually molested by her monstrous school principal father, often forced into a cello case with a peep hole so she must watch her parents making passionate love. Even though Kuwana(as Mitsuko) and her father are found by mother Sayuri(Miyazaki), nothing derives from it! Sayuri doesn't even respond after finding her husband and daughter in bed together! Instead, Sayuri begins to compete with her daughter for the father's love! Sayuri begins beating Mitsuko when papa is away. When Mitsuko defends herself over a missing earing, the result Sayuri falling down a flight of steps, the movie eventually shifts to novelist Taeko(also Miyazaki)and her assistant Yûji(Issei Ishida), who tends to her every need and whim. Yûji is aloof and practically zombie-like in his devotion to Taeko and ability to withstand insults in regards to his lack of a libido. Yûji may very well be hiding a secret, revealed without our knowledge to a group of body modification addicts. While directed with assured and mad skill by the director, I have to admit that I hated every minute of this movie because of its sickening subject matter. I could barely keep watching as the opening of the film completely places us into the story of a little girl and her abuse at the hands of a beastly father. And this bastard's sexual activities in front of her, not to mention, the mother who doesn't get her daughter out of this environment when the goings good. Thank goodness the director doesn't show explicit activity between father and daughter, opting to use a creative psychological method(the daughter narratively comments that she and her mother are the same, one, and so actress Miyazaki instead takes her place as the woman made love to)to get out of it. There's still plenty of sex, startlingly soft-core, but the little girl's abuse is implied which is a relief. That said, the director accomplished what he set out to obviously do, hit the viewer between the eyes and never let go. Whether or not you have a tolerance for the material and its characters will determine if you like STRANGE CIRCUS or not. Sono successfully carries us right into novelist Taeko's madness right until the very end. I can't deny this movie's power, but I don't have to like what I see, either.
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A Nutshell Review: Strange Circus
DICK STEEL28 August 2009
Compared to the previous film, the production values here just scream out at you with its opulence from the opening scene , from its colourful sets and gaudy characters leaping out with a compère introducing some characters and acts in a strange circus indeed. Written and directed by Sion Sono, I have only had one experience with his Noriko's Dinner Table, and had primed myself for yet another tale of the bizarre, and one that touches on his pet subject, the erosion of identity and values in a traditional Japanese family.

This one though, had Sick written all over it, especially with the premise Sion had started off with. We are painted the picture of a perfect, rich household of three, before dad Gozo (Fumie Nakashima) starts to hatch an evil idea of hiding his daughter Mitsuko (Rie Kuwana / Mai Takahashi playing different age groups) in a specially designed cello case with a peephole, which he puts in the master bedroom in order for Mitsuko to learn the art of making love. Needless to say, throw in child sexual abuse, and a mother Sayuri (Masumi Miyazaki in a comeback role) who's just compelled to peep from the same case, and things are just not what they seem.

It gets even sicker through the complication of emotions and standing within the household, where Sayuri gets jealous with the attention that her child is getting from her husband, and a deadly tussle ensued, resulting in a guilt trip which Mitsuko, now assuming fully the role of a wife, starts to look at herself having the physical make up of a fully grown woman, taking the appearance of her mother. If you've made it to this point, that's great, since it's probably nothing more than a severely dysfunctional family being put on screen in an examination of taboo issues like incest.

Then Sion starts to turn things over our heads, with this seemingly one-track narrative being nothing more than the storyline of the paralyzed novelist Taeko (also played by Masumi Miyazaki), which makes one wonder if what we've seen thus far is but a figment of her imagination of yet another potential bestseller, or there's something more than meets the eye especially to her paralysis. Sion then begins to cut forwards and backwards a lot more, resulting in a tale that could go either way, depending on whether you're buying the story in the novel as a fantasy, or rooted in reality. The introduction of Taeko's androgynous assistant Yuji (Issei Ishida) also helped made this particular act stranger than usual, though you're likely to come off with a suspicion that he's got a lot more to do with Taeko than it seemed.

If you're comfortable enough with the inclusion on this act, then the last one that Sion throws at you, in an effort to gel this weird mother-daughter dynamics, will be the litmus test for each individual whether you like the film or not. To me, I thought it was fine, though confusion can arise because now all three arcs start to mash up against one another, and the lines between fantasy and reality will very much depend on which angle you prefer to adopt. I'd go for how sexual abuse will really warp a young, impressionable child's mind, and turn it into a long drawn out tale of mystery and revenge. Sion adds to the confusion through the use of perspectives, having different characters assume roles that we've seen before, and when you try to logically work things out, in comes the scenes of gore and torture for horror classification.

Don't be put off too early by Strange Circus, as there is enough material on hand to warrant multiple viewings just to test out the other hypotheses on who's actually who, and who actually did what. As mentioned, the production values are just great, though some scenes, or the thought of it since they happen off-screen, would make you nausea. Different layers being presented independently, then rolled together into one, makes Strange Circus quite a challenge to sit through, but with a satisfying payoff at the end.
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Strange but not so good
saraccan5 April 2018
I like movies that push boundaries and this one definitely does that to a certain extent. But it gets somewhat boring just when you start expecting interesting things to unfold, because it just does the classic twist after twist routine which makes it strange but in a not so good way.

The movie is about a mother and daughter who are sexually abused by the father of the house, and the disorienting life of this family.
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Another Bizarre Classic From a Master
luckyfox5631 March 2016
Sion Sono, the director of Suicide Club, returns with a beautifully complicated and deep film that deals with taboos such as pedophilia, abuse, suicide, and voyeurism-- and what a perfect director to make such a film. Sono goes about addressing these subjects in such a uniquely crazy yet mature way. He doesn't make fun of pedophilia, he blows it out of proportion to show how monstrous and damaging it is.

This film studies the essence of life itself, and what reality truly is in a world without mercy. Much of its imagery is striking and will stick with me for a while. It is absolutely riveting and fascinating and I highly recommend it if you can stomach its content. Though it is not as profound as Suicide Club or Tag, it is certainly worth a watch.
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Wheels turning with the stuff of nightmare
chaos-rampant2 July 2011
What a strange movie. It reminds me of Chan-wook Park in the way that it teeters so close to the edges of bad taste, or the trite movie conventions of melodrama, in an effort to ultimately transform them into grand gestures. So that the lowly and visceral can be ennobled, humanized into something akin to an opera.

The first half hour of this is superb stuff, or really close to it. The violated mind as a vaudeville stage, to which we are literally invited by the impresario holding out a hand at a first-person camera; once inside, the reality of vicious trauma involving pedophilia, incest, and a cello case, this perversity that we usually find in Miike reflected, thus reversed (a mirror is crucial in this segment, and eventually fractured), into a nightmare world of the mind rendered with images of Cronenberg and rooms painted bloodred.

This part is great because it understands the stuff of nightmares, and how the mind is a funhouse mirror that distorts the violence heaped upon it.

Then the movie becomes something like an inverse Audition, about an unstable woman with a cello case full of dark secrets weaving her web and about another web being woven by her prey meant to ensnare her. She is an author writing a novel about the childhood stuff we just witnessed in the first part. The most interesting notion here is that her victim sets out to find out about her and why she writes herself in her books, what kind of self hides behind the facade.

All this is marred by a pretty juvenile finale, where we are tossed about through a bunch of shocking revelations from one reality to the other, in an effort to know what 'actually' happened. Here lies the problem for me; we are told too much, too much of what was earlier a suggestion is attempted to be explained away (we even experience an earlier scene in the way that it actually happened, this tacky Fight Club device) and too much of this hinges on some unexpected twist than something that crawls underneath.

Interesting movie and I will keep from it the amazing shots of the damaged mind envisioned as a neon-lit luna park, but it only reminds me again of how important it is that we have David Lynch.

Having achieved the fame and exposure that he has, surprising in itself, it is perhaps easy to leave him behind in lieu of more obscure, undiscovered works such as this. But none of these can sustain and sublimate like he knows the dreamy illusion within movie structures that remain vague, mere outlines that hint at spiritual perils. He knows the stuff of nightmares but more importantly what mechanisms control them in the mind, how illusions are formed. This one has some intuitive grasp, but grasps blindly.
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Matricide child grows down to be a delusional author, or did she?
suite9218 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This film reminds me most of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998. Strange Circus has about as much cohesion and steady reference to a time-line.

The whole of the film seems to be the musings and ravings of a successful author who is also certifiably nuts.

During the film, the author fills in her story, or what she wants to present as her story. The back story is thrown at the viewer in broken pieces, rather like the piles of junk present in so many rooms recurrently visited.

The mythology starts around when the protagonist, Mitsuko, is twelve. She unintentionally sees her parents having sex. Then her father forces her to watch from inside a cello case. After several sessions of this, her father lets his wife know that Mitsuko has been watching. Then he forces the mother and the daughter to switch places. The mother grows to resent this; when the father is out, the mother abuses Mitsuko. Not much later, Mitsuko 'accidentally' pushes her mother down the stairs, resulting in the mother's death. Later Mitsuko attempts suicide and fails. The cello case follows her around in the movie as she continues life from a wheelchair.

Those events are referred to again and again. The resulting length of time in a wheelchair seems a bit variable. Perhaps she's permanently there; perhaps not.

As the film advances toward the end, the rate of scenario switching increases. Did the mother fall down the stairs, or was it the father? Was the child's suicide attempt just a part of the plot in a novel? Was the father the mastermind who triumphs at the end, or did the mother and daughter stump him (cut off all limbs) and chain him for additional sport?

The subtitle of the film is 'Reality is the mystery,' and the film does a bang-up job of conveying that.


Cinematography: 7/10 Soft, grainy focus is all too common; the filters in the circus scenes are at least as detrimental. Add in a dash of jerky camera movement. To make things for interesting, the movie has scenes where walls are covered in blood (revolting and ugly), and rooms with very little furniture, but plenty of unorganized dross on the floors. This is ugly for the sake of ugly.

Sound: 8/10 No particular problems.

Acting: 7/10 Tough call. As with the actors in the films of Cronenberg (Existenz, Crash, Videodrome) or Lynch (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks), one has to figure the actors in Strange Circus are doing what the detail-oriented director wants. On the other hand, several performances seem wooden or amateurish.

Screenplay: 8/10 Watching this film is like watching someone do a finger painting. The painting is done when the canvas is covered or the painter just quits. Also like a finger painting, one can gaze at it at length, trying to figure out what it means, even though no fixed meaning was intended.
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possibly b-rated
yozkan00214 February 2006
This movie is about a young girl who is the victim of (violent and gory) parental abuse. Later the story focuses on the female writer of the girl's stories who may or may not have been involved with them personally.

Incoherent and haphazard scenes have been thrown in to suggest flashbacks between reality and fantasy. Plenty of blood and blood-stained interiors have been used to heighten the drama without achieving this aim and becoming comical. Weak acting, weak scenario, emphasis on unnecessary gory scenes unrelated to the plot. Cannot recommend this film.
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Not entirely successful, but very interesting
zetes1 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A film that reminds me very much of David Lynch, particularly Mulholland Dr., the way it establishes a reality and then, in the middle of the picture, makes us question that reality. A young girl is forced to watch as her parents make love from inside a cello case. Later on, her father brings her into the bed, too, which drives her mother (Masumi Miyazaki) into a rage. Major spoilers follow: after nearly half the movie, it's revealed that this disturbing scenario is really the plot of a new novel by a woman named Taeko (also played by Miyazaki). So it's a fiction, right? Well, Taeko's not quite sure. She's a bit nutty. Perhaps the scenario is an invention of her sick mind. Perhaps she was the girl in the story, Mitsuko. And perhaps her new editor (Issei Ishida) knows more than she does about the whole situation. End of spoilers. The film is highly flawed. In particular, when the truth is finally revealed, it explains everything a tad too much. It also rips off a particularly effective final twist from Miike's Audition near the end (and it's not as effective here). Still, a very interesting film from one of the most interesting filmmakers working today.
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