A false dichotomy containing however a large helping of truth is that with cinema, when you go down either the art-house or mainstream routes, you are opting for either the morbid or the stupid (occasionally both). If that's so, then Love Exposure is an example of the troisieme voie that modern exuberant Japanese cinema can be. This film is literally bursting with life and fully sustains the four hour running time. I felt like asking the winds why all cinema wasn't like this when I came out.
Despite numerous sashays forward and back in time and a pretty complex plot, what we've got here is basically a love story between star-cross'd lovers, a young man Yu, and a young woman Yoko. The comedy aspect comes with the obstacles that Yu is continuously having to overcome to achieve love with Yoko, a girl who hates all men, except for Kurt Cobain (incidentally Cobain crossdressed). Spunky Yu is going to be dragged through bushes, over hot coals, through friendships, in and out of a cult and drug before he even gets close to Yoko.
The soundtrack is pretty crazy, and disarmingly obvious, main uses are made of Ravel's Bolero and the Allegretto from Beethoven's Symphony #7 (if you don't recognise the name you probably will recognise the sound). There's also some J-rock chucked in for added good measure, and that was not bad to be fair (I don't generally care for modern vocal music - chock full of loose allusions). The vast majority of films wouldn't get away with the classical choices made here, however the film has the level of pathos and interest to match the music.
There's quite a lot of points scored along the way about different modes of living. Tosatsu is shown as being as revelatory as the Christian experience. Tosatsu by the way, if you can believe it, is the Japanese martial art of taking up-skirt photos of unwary young women. The movie dwells a lot on the fetishism involved with Christianity as much as it does up-skirt fetishism. We quite often see ornate gold and mother of pearl rosaries being held by female characters, and the ritual of confession becomes incredibly fetishised, literally causing Yu to commit far more sin than he would otherwise have done.
It occurs to you occasionally that the film is low budget, as some of the cinematography is reminiscent more of a documentary than a high production values movie. But the movie is a pure unbroken copper strand, conducting electricity throughout. The great device of Sono during the first half of the movie is to have a countdown to a "miracle" that is going to occur so you're always in anticipation.
I've simplified the movie a bit, there are several important characters that I haven't mention whose stories play out alongside Yu's, and the level of character development is very high. This is the movie experience of the year. You'll see the hospital run at the end, and it will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Congratulations to Shion Sono, who has displayed a sensitivity to marginalised folks, and a joie de vivre that hardly anyone else is even trying to do.