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Winsome epic love story
This film was recommended to me when I mentioned going to a film festival in London, so I read a little about it and it gathered that it was a four hour plus Japanese movie with themes surrounding Catholic guilt, love, up-skirt fetishism, and transvestism. How could I fail to be entertained? Well I wasn't.

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.
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Suspend disbelief
jandesimpson19 May 2012
For me, "Love Exposure" is something of a terrific one-off experience. How to begin to describe with any degree of rationality the extraordinary effect of bewildering excitement it has had on a near octogenarian, is a task I find daunting. And yet for a work unlike any other in its helter-skelter delivery of an adolescent's quest for romantic fulfilment ( which I suppose is what it is all about), I feel I should at least take up the challenge. With such an engagingly innocent central character as schoolboy Yu, it seems completely natural to suspend disbelief and go along with everything he experiences, including his hilarious initiation into the skills of a panty photographer, his role as father-confessor at a perverts' convention and his attack with explosives and much blood letting on the HQ of a brainwashing religious cult. Buried beneath it all there could well be many serious messages (you get a big chunk of Corinthians!) or it could be just a pile of tosh. But in the end, who cares, such is the delirious pleasure that just under four hours of outrageous goings-on have delivered. I suppose I just love the theme of innocent youngsters taking on the wicked world. Gosh! I am still reeling, my critical faculties all but shattered!
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Breathtakingly Ambitious Epic of a Film
cxc2325 July 2009
Summing up Sono's Love Exposure is a task I still do not think I am ready for even after two days of soaking it in after my viewing at NYAFF. Some of the many ideas the film dealt with in the 4 hour runtime included commentary on religion, cultism, perversion, growing up and coming of age, love, and life. The film tackles many of these heavy hitting themes and ideas with a sense of humor found very little in much of the mainstream fluff produced today. The balance of subtle often crude humor and darker, heavier, more dramatic aspects of the story really works well. Sono creates a product that can appeal to a wider base of people. There is something in this film for everyone from the people who enjoy the latest Will Ferrel production to the admirers of Bergman. With a rowdy packed house at the NY premiere at the festival the first two and a half hours are a riot and breeze by. There are points in the latter portion which start to drag a bit but never could I say I was bored with the film. The movie was well made with good cinematography, decent acting, and a great script with fully fleshed out characters. The director is able to create an effective commentary on religion, loneliness, Japanese society all the while mixing in a lot of body humor, up-skirt shots, and a few lesbian kissing scenes for good measure. Overall highly recommended, ignore the 4 hour runtime because it is the fastest 4 hour movie you will see. Ultimately a funny, sad, uplifting, and depressing movie all at the same time.
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Bizarre, brash, sweet, ugly and BRILLIANT!
Tim Kidner1 April 2012
This was part of Film 4's recent 'Extreme Season' and it's easy to see why. Film critic and introducer to the film, Mark Kermode unravelled a whole heap of adjectives in trying to describe its virtues - and I think he only scraped the surface.

Yes, we know by now that it's 4 hours long but with the requisite ad breaks, that bumps it up to five. Thus, the very thought of committing the time and effort to this huge chunk of one's valuable life is far worse than actually watching it. Due to other commitments, I had to undertake watching the recording in 3 manageable pieces, turning each into 'normal' film lengths.

Lurching between high melodrama and lamenting ballad, Love Exposure IS a love story. But the most crazy, beautiful and fantastical one you've ever seen. Typically Japanese in going to extremes, at times modern fairytale and then extreme graphic violence almost at the turn of a hat.

Somehow, strangely all the characters are endearing, especially the two central ones, Yu and Yoko. Yoko must have the sweetest smile I've ever seen, at times enticing, at others crying painfully. If you think though that this is just about emotional roller-coasting, there are some of the most striking story lines and stunts and ideas that have come from a fertile, imaginative and superb director, that mix martial arts with technology, religion with sex, perversion with love and much more.

The choice of music, from Ravel's 'Bolero' to other brilliant rock pieces, that were repeated in loops really added to the structure and my enjoyment and I'm sure they hypnotised us into feeling the film shorter than it actually was. This was one of the best features of the project.

Unlike the film, I'm going to keep my review shortish. Let's just say that the hype is real, the movie is unforgettable and whilst not quite a Citizen Kane, most film lovers with an open mind and an open heart will find much to enjoy.
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Imagine the perfect movie
the_agent19 April 2009
Imagine the perfect movie, and there will never be a better one after that. I saw "Love Exposure" today at the Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt. It's a masterpiece. The best 4 hours of cinema I have ever seen. It's so heartbreaking, my knees are still shaking and I have to say, I cried like a Baby at the End. Forget everything you've ever seen before and go on a ride you will never forget. Sion Sono is a goddamn genius. And the best about it, it's not a second to long. On the contrary, the movie cut is very fast. I hope Rapid Eye Movies will release a uncut DVD and Blu-ray version in Germany. It's very rare you feel those magic moments in cinema these days.

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Love Exposure
Martin Teller30 December 2011
A freewheeling, four-hour epic saga of teenage crushes, Christianity, upskirt photos, double identities, shady cults and perversion. Director Sion Sono gives himself free rein to shift gears at the drop of a hat, and amazingly it doesn't end up an incoherent mess. In fact, somehow the more ridiculous it gets, the more you start to take it seriously. There's an awful lot of thematic ground covered here, but for me it felt particularly successful as a story of adolescent self-discovery. Yu and Yoko cycle through various roles that their social structures, institutions and backgrounds have set up for them before they "find themselves" in a finale that in itself may be yet another false construct. The film's Christian angles are a little tougher to get a hold on, but ultimately I feel Sono's stance is satirical (rightfully so) regarding the hypocrisy of organized religion while not completely writing off the possibility of a fulfilling spiritual life. The sexual content has an unusual complexity to it as well. I am a little concerned about the casual treatment of Yoko's lesbianism (which I can't get into without spoiling) but I suppose that's usually going to be an issue when you have a male writer/director tackling the subject.

Despite the hefty length, the movie is never dull, mixing up styles and tones in a way that keeps you wondering what will happen next. Comedy and action and melodrama bleed together effortlessly (it's something the Japanese tend to do rather well) and no matter how wacky the proceedings become, there's a sincerity and heartfeltness to it. I liked the use of music, especially the "Bolero" in the first chapter, building up to the "miracle" that smashes our heroes together. The performances are all fine... I don't know if I was particularly impressed with any of them, but they seemed to fit.

Overall, I thought it was fantastic, complex and very entertaining. A bit like Jodorowsky, but more enjoyable.
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a story of love, religions and cults, panty-picture-king-fu and other things
MisterWhiplash4 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
With Love Exposure you need to know up front that it's four hours. If you're accepting of that fact and willing to hunker down with it in theory, you're already most of the way there, because this is one of those rare epics where it definitely does not feel like a four hour slog. Instead, Sion Sono takes us through the story of Yu Honda and his love of his young teenage life, Yoko, as if it's in homage to City of God: things move forward fast by way of the characters' narration taking us along, telling us the back-stories and then how they meet in an outrageous, fateful moment.

It's too hard to simply condense all of what Love Exposure is "about". This should not be a mark against Sion Sono, on the contrary it's a mark of a film so rich in a creative story, of characters wholly developed in their various tragic and twisted and sometimes very funny ways that it almost does a disservice to have to break everything down into simple summaries. It's a film that takes many chances as outrageous satire and sordid melodrama with its ideas and details and succeeds on nearly all of them.

It all starts with the protagonist, Yu Honda (Takahiro Nishijima) telling us in narration how he was raised: his mother died when she was very young, instilling in him and Honda's father a sense of religious purpose (the Mother Mary comes into play very early at this point, and Sono comes back to it later as a device of infatuation for Yu). After she dies, Yu's father Tetsu (Atsuro Watabe) becomes a priest, but a snafu comes with Saori (Makiko Watanabe), a very insistent and hysterical woman who practically forces Tetsu to start a relationship with her. He does, briefly, but then she leaves him for someone else, which turns Tetsu into something else: a cranky priest.

He drags now teenage Yu to confession to confess things that are very petty since he's an average kid with little in the way of troubles. But the "Father" is insistent, and so Yu takes up more "sins" such as petty theft with a gang, and this soon leads into one of the real highlights of the film, which is Yu's training and mastering of the art of taking lighting-quick pictures up teenage girl's skirts for their panties, all for the ironic "approval" of having sinned enough for the confession, with hilariously disastrous results He loses a bet with his friends and has to dress up in drag. On this exact day he has a run in with a gang of thugs looking to beat up a girl, Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima) even though, as she insists, she can take care of herself.

It's after this crazy kung-fu battle that the two lock eyes: Yu on Yoko, Yoko on what appears to be a mysterious female martial arts master, who in a moment of odd inspiration is dubbed "Miss Scorpion". It's from here, at the one hour mark, we move from Yu to Yoko's back-story, even *more* harrowing and melodramatic than Yu's, THEN this leads into another back-story for the pivotal character Koike (Sakura Ando) who has ascended by her rather evil tendencies (she castrated her father as a young girl for abuse, but this isn't even what makes her evil as we find out) in a church called ZERO, which is a cultish church looking to drag families in and brainwash them with their caste system of dehumanization.

What happens when Koike starts to infiltrate Yu and his family circle, and in particular with her known connection between Yu and Yoko, shouldn't be spoiled. If it sounds like a lot of story then it is, but never, not once, did it get boring. Oh sure, it is the story of teenagers in love, and so we get a lot of what makes teens teens: sexual frustration, angsty-tendencies (Yoko has a "I HATE MEN" policy leading to her thinking she may be a lesbian), and being "perverted" in the eyes of the church. But it's directed by Sono with plenty of energy and humor - some of this is so funny in some gross and ridiculous ways, not least of which involving a running gag with Yu's continual and hard-to-deflate arousal - moving along from point to point breathlessly.

While the humor of the church could remind one of Bunuel's cunning jabs at Catholicism, there's too much to pinpoint simply because it's got something for any real movie fan: there's over-the-top Yakuza-style violence (a climactic bloodbath is reminiscent of a Miike splatter-fest), there's harsh melodrama, there's satire stretching across the spectrum from pornography to cult-worshipers to kung-fu. And if you want some actual hardcore drama out of theater there's a show-stopping scene on a beach where Yoko breathlessly and tearfully delivers the entire excerpt from Corinthians 13 to a baffled Yu. The music selections are also phenomenal, ranging from catchy Japanese pop-rock to Beethoven's 7th symphony 2nd movement, surely one of the most dramatic pieces of music for use in a movie let alone this.

Love Exposure is crazy, inspired film-making, shot on digital video with care and acted with so much gusto to match with the breakneck speed of the mis-en-scene. You'll check your watch from time to time, but only to wonder how fast its all gone by. If you're into intelligent Japanese cinema done on a HUGE canvas, this is the place to go - that is, if and when it gets a US distributor.
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My Favorite Movie
earwicker77730 December 2012
This movie is perfection. Normally, even when I enjoy a movie, I'm ready for it to be over after about two and a half hours... I'm sure there is some psychological reason for this. Suffice it to say that this was not at all the case with this movie; in the almost four hour running time, there was literally only one five minute stretch where the pace slowed down. The remainder of the film is pure electricity, and touched on every emotion you could want in a movie... there's laughter in spades, there's action aplenty, and I challenge anyone not to tear up at the amazing ending. If you see only one movie about up-skirt panty-shot taking ninjas this year, make it this one.
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On Sion Sono
Grethiwha10 January 2015
Writer/Director Sion Sono is my favourite filmmaker of this century. Though some of his early stuff, from the 90s, is a little shaky, everything he's made since Utsushimi (2000) has been phenomenal. He is bold and visionary, and his films are always memorable, confident and flawless in their direction.

Sono's dialogue is not realistic, but hyperreal. Emotions are cranked up to eleven in a Sono film. But it does not feel so much like a melodrama, as it does, somehow, a complete externalization of the internal, like the characters are literally turned inside-out, and there's a lot of blood, and it's kind of horrific and kind of funny, but through all the gore and craziness their inner feelings, their souls, are put on full display and ours are reflected in them.

There's a lot of screaming in Sono films. My favourite example is in Hazard (2005), where the main character, Shin, fed up with his dull life, runs screaming across his high school recreation ground. I could not scream in front of people like that, but I'd love to, and somehow this sequence, in amongst a montage of frenetically-conveyed backstory, expressed his character more clearly to me, connected me with the character more quickly, and deeply, than any more subtle approach could have.

These characters wear their emotions on their sleeves; their feelings are conveyed intensely and immediately through the acting, dialogue, scenario. Take for example Himizu (2011): When the parents of both main characters, Yuichi and Keiko, feel they'd be better off without their children, they have no qualms about telling them so: Yuichi's father drunkenly tells him again and again about the insurance he would have collected if Yuichi'd drowned in the tsunami... Keiko's mom even builds her a snazzy little construct with a noose for her to hang herself, and decorates it for Christmas! And when Yuichi gets fed up, he sets out into the city, carrying a knife in a shopping bag to punish all the terrible people out there.

Sono's films are the opposite of subtle: they are over-the-top, ridiculous. Consider his breakout hit Suicide Club (2001), in which the schoolgirls impulsively and joyfully commit suicide, after hearing it's become trendy to do so. Or, consider the absolutely stunning depths of insanity reached by the end of Strange Circus (2005) and Guilty of Romance (2011), films I can only categorize as darkly-comic psycho-sexual horror films. Yet, beneath the surface, there is an underlying, ecstatic truth to these films, these characters and situations.

Before Sono was a filmmaker, he was a poet. It's not enough for Sono for a poem to be written, it must be yelled in public, repeated, made to sink in. Consider the repetition of poems in Guilty of Romance or Himizu. In another one of his films, it may be a bible verse. Poetry is intrinsic to Sono's films. His entire scripts, his films, are effectively a form of poetry he is sharing with us. All of his films are written himself, they are his art, and they are never compromised.

I will not, in this review, explain what Love Exposure is about, except to say that it is the ultimate Sion Sono film. It's the summation of everything that came before. It's gory, it's insane, it's frenetic, it's wildly entertaining and extremely funny, it's completely ridiculous and intimately relatable. There's truth and poetry underlying every outrageous scene. I feel, simply, that it is the greatest film of my generation.
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Joseph Sylvers18 October 2009
Love Exposure is Sion Sono's first truly great film. As much as I was truly creeped out and disturbed by his previous modern horror classic "Suicide Circle" I was equally bored and repulsed by his "Strange Circus", so much so I had written Sonno off as a hack who got lucky. Love Exposure continues Sono's themes of alienated youth on the fringes of cults and the extremes of pop culture, but here he gives himself the freedom to be funny, sweet, frail, absurd, and exciting.

The story begins with a catholic boy named Yu whose mother dies, but not before asking to him to swear that he will find a woman like the Virgin Mary to make his wife. His father out of grief dedicates himself to the priesthood, and all is well until a romantic "detour" in his life, leaves him a sin obsessed and emotionally vacant shell whose Jeremiah's and interrogations of his son become his only solace.

He insists Yu make daily confessions, and though Yu wants to oblige, he cant think of any wrongs he might possibly have committed, that is until he begins committing some sins of his own. His small sins are quickly not enough for his father who thinks he's just making it up and not really concerned with sin and thus his immortal soul.

It is only when he meets a group of street kids, and begins learning the secret art of up skirt panty photography (peek-a-panty), that his father reacts and beats him, finally not acting like an impartial priest but an enraged father.

This backfires a bit for Yu when his father moves out of the house completely, to live in the church and be "closer to God". This is all played out in black comedy fashion, the peek-a-panty training sequence which uses elements of kung-fu and acrobatics to capture the naughty pics, being some of the most especially funny.

Yu's incorruptibility while he performs these increasingly corrupt acts is another thing that keeps this movie from wallowing in its transgressions. Yu only wants his father to love him and really does believe his sins will please him and bring them closer together. In fact none of the characters even the film's villain, the young leader and "criminal mastermind" of the Zero Church (a Scientology/Aum inspired cult; the Aum carried out the deadly Serin gas attacks in a Tokyo subway in 1995, an event which seems central to much of Sono's work) named Koike, who strokes a small green parrot like a James Bond villain, is motivated throughout the havoc she wreaks, not by a desire for world domination, by her love for Yu.

Yu out one day in drag after losing a bet, encounters a group of inexplicable street toughs harassing a girl, who comes to resemble "his Maria" the girl he has been searching for all this time (and who he insists he will know because she will be the first to give him an erection). What ensues is a kung fu fight in town square, that ends with a sweet if confusing kiss, exchanged by the star crossed lovers.

Confusing because Yoko (his Maria), believes her first kiss was with a woman (Ms. Scorpion) and that she may now be a lesbian, which coincides nicely with her understandable "hatred of men" stemming from her abusive father. To make a four hour story short, Yu and Yoko become step brother and sister, and Yu is put in a Tootsie/Spiderman like position of having created an alter-ego the love of his life is more interested in than "the real him".

Then things heat up, dramatically and under the collar, when Koike whose been observing impassively for the first hour or so, enters the picture claiming to be Ms. Scorpion (Yu's alter ego, the spitting image of Blank Blank in Lady Prisoner), and seducing Yoko (in many a lesbian school girl make-out session) in order to get closer to Yu.

I'll stop there with plot, because there are still two and half more hours I would have to describe.

Goodness and perversion are the two twin themes throughout the film, just as I've said each character is motivated in some ways by love, but they all different definitions of what love is. These definitions are more often than not imposed by some social barrier or psychological scar from childhood.

Some may be bothered by the "weirdness", "perversity", or sacrilege in the film, but everything is in its right place, in its right measure, and nothing is exploitative. The immersion in perversion and the obscene recalls another great modern spiritual film Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" where bodies are used and abused with drugs and degraded sex, in order to make the contrast between the spiritual and non physical more clear.

Ken Russell's The Devils and Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc, both focus on the material, hostile, and outrageous, to show the pure spirit; God struggling in the world, as the spirit/mind struggles with the body. For Sono the material world is one of porn, guilt, self flagellation, but above all love. Though love may lead take on one on many a strange "detour" in life, it ultimately really does conquer all (see Corinthians 13).

For these reasons and too many more to write down, Sonos up-skirt peek-a-panty ninja quest for the Virgin Mary as Holy Grail is one of the best love stories, coming of age tales, and movies of the decade. This movie is a strange brew of the theatrical and the uncommonly sensitive, in a way that truly has to be seen for yourself. I hope when it gets released stateside it comes with its full run time intact, because it's the first four hour movie I've ever seen that I sincerely didn't want to end.
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Stunning and incredible artwork
kennethd-318 October 2009
Even after the light on I cannot utter a single word in the theatre. I clutched my heart and it beat incredibly fast. There is no point one should criticize an artwork like Love Exposure, with all elements a good film should consist of. Perfect plot, stunning music, touching ending. I cannot help crying on the last scene. This is just a pure love movie. So true. A romance in a crazy and nonsense world. Sion Sono is simply a genius. He shows us how a movie can take audiences to an amazing journey. I am not going to write a formal review on the movie. There is no way I can sum up the movie with words but never can I say one day I would forget the movie by a bit. This is one of the best movies I've ever watched, if not the best. Go watch it! You will be moved, definitely.
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Profound, Provocative & Pretty Wild
crossbow01064 July 2009
This is a four hour film from Sion Sono, who has directed "Suicide Club" and "Exte", amongst other films. He certainly is a maverick and this film continues to cement his reputation. The film is about the young Yu, played excellently by Takahiro Nishijima, whose father became a Catholic priest after his mom dies. The story more or less tells his life for one year starting with age 17. He falls in with a ragtag group of petty thieves, thus discovering sin. What we then find out is he is a master of the upskirt camera shot. You watch as he does martial arts moves to get the pictures. This garnered the loudest laughs from the sell out crowd at the Japan Society in New York where I saw the premiere. He then meets the rough around the edges but very pretty Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima) and also the somewhat creepy Sakura Ando, whose character tries to lure Yu and his family (which soon includes Yoko, whose guardian is dating Yu's priest dad) to a religious cult. Yoko means everything to Yu, so he tries to stop this. This film can be vulgar at times (you see copious amounts of upskirt shots) and it also to a point bashes Catholicism, but its also pretty powerful. The movie is not boring, despite its length. Its best watched in a theater, since the reaction from the audience at the premiere I went to enhanced the enjoyment. The only reason I didn't give it a 10 was because of its sometime vulgarity, but I highly recommend this film. Sion Sono is very impressive and this is a worthy addition to his controversial but always intriguing career.
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An incredible movie with a great story-line.
Samad Rahman12 May 2016
OK let me first start out by saying that this is my first Sion Sono movie i've watched. And I must say i'm a huge fan of his work now.

I'm going to try and keep spoilers out of this review for obvious reasons, go and watch this movie.

The film (for me) centres around three young individuals Yu, Yoko and Koike. Whom which are great characters and are very memorable.

Yu is a boy trying to gain his father's acceptance in what he does, Yoko is a girl who despises men after a traumatic and Koike is a smart deceiving woman. All these aspects work amazingly and somehow bring all these characters together in some bizarre ways.

The film is 4 hours long, yes that is a long time for a the average film goer also it does have some violent and bloody moments so if you're squeamish you have been warned, but if you give this movie a chance i'm sure the time will fly by. The film has so much going for it that you wont be bored.

The soundtrack for this movie is euphoric and in my opinion, has it own character in this movie. I must have listened to this soundtrack on loop a dozen time today, the blend of classical music as well as Japanese pop/rock is perfect for this movie.

The ending of this movie had me literally giving a standing ovation in my living room. I instantly wanted to give it another watch.

Overall, Love Exposure is a phenomenal movie and I would highly recommend anyone who has been interested reading my review to go and watch it. I can't wait to watch more of Sion Sono's work.
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10/10 & added to my "masterpiece collection" list
d-JCB15 June 2015
This film is incredible… Sono overall is kinda like Takashi Miike but he's able to make a 4hr film & hold your attention right till the end… it's filled with dark comedy, twisted story lines & random characters with violence & sex… it's so absurd all u can do is laugh, even in the most violent parts… but it also has beauty, tenderness, tension, psychological, and many other facts which makes this brilliant film so profound…

If you haven't seen Miike's Ichi the Killer (2001) or Sono's Cold Fish (2010), then do that first before tackling this 4hr beast so you have some context of this fascinating masterpiece… sion-sono-10-10-added-to
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Sion Sono Is Crazy (Thankfully)
cmjuhsin25 November 2017
What can I add that many have not already about Japanese director Sion Sono? He makes art films full of violence, nudity and life. The typical art film could be boring or pretentious, but Sono never ever bores the audience and that assertion goes doubly for the fact that this film is four hours long.

It may be no coincidence that the Japanese title for Love Exposure begins with 'Ai No...' which is similar to the original title for In The Realm Of Senses (Ai No Korida), the other infamous Japanese anti-mainstream movie. Like that film, Love Exposure is entertaining, but clearly pushing boundaries. Here the subtext is enjoying the beauty of women upskirt, but indeed the director sets upon religion, etiquette, societal norms and the inherent hatred and shame assigned to what is most natural. To be frank, however, Christians would not take pleasure in the imagery or the mockery (never mind the sexuality).

For my money, it is splendid that voices outside the mainstream can still find some breathing room (sorry, mom).
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My favourite film
Dare_Daniel24 July 2017
This is what I personally believe to be the best film ever made by one my favorite director Sion Sono.

It's hard to believe how this film is 4 hours long and I still never wanted it to end, it's never boring, it's always charming, always funny and always intelligent. Every scene made me smile and every character made me feel. The length was needed to outline the characters' stories, it was really entertaining to see how the characters developed and connected through its 4 hours (!!!). How is this even possible?

This film is such a trip of emotions, the story goes around religion, love, fetish and social standards and it all sums up in a beautiful and crazy experience. I became erect with my heart. I can only thank my mother for being alive to watch this film.

Oh and Yoko is my favourite character in any movie.
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"Being a pervert is just one way of life."
Al_The_Strange6 February 2013
Truly a one-of-a-kind experience: this is a massive epic that weaves an impressively deep and invoking story, which includes the search for true love, coming-of-age themes, family values, kung-fu, cross-dressing, upskirt photography, perverts, religion, sin, fanaticism, and dangerous cults. Only in Japan...

You'd think that a four hour movie (yes, FOUR hours! To think the film was originally going to be six hours) would get tiresome, but surprisingly, Love Exposure never once drags. Somehow, it strikes a perfect pace, never too fast and never too slow. It'll have scenes that are so wild and crazy that they're hilarious. It also has scenes that are somber and poetic. Overall, the film takes its time to let the story and characters breathe, making the story and characters easily accessible and relate-able, and it does so without being boring or overdone.

You'd also think that this film could be cut down further, but strangely, the story actually benefits from its lengthy runtime, and uses up every minute of it. It goes through three, four, five or so different characters, all with their own crazy and insightful backstories, who inevitably collide and create interesting new plot complications. With so many issues at work with so many characters, the film creates many complex relationships, and uses them to weave a tight and dense plot. The manner in which this plot is presented makes it pretty easy to comprehend, allowing the viewer to fully understand one strand of the plot before diving into another. It's also very effective at getting the viewer to care about the characters, even if they are crazy or violent or freaks. With such an ambitious plot structure at work, the film manages to dig up some important themes regarding love, life, and religion, and possibly other things.

The film is shot and edited in an interesting manner; at times, the way it frames and puts images together reminds me a lot of an anime series. As such, it is a stylish film with purposeful composition. The camera work can be erratic at times, appearing like a documentary, but not to a sickening degree. Acting is pretty decent all around, and the writing is great. This production makes the best out of its utilitarian sets, props, and costumes. Music, while brusquely used, is strangely addictive and effective.

It's a long and crazy film, just as I expected, but it's also a film I couldn't stop watching, because its characters were so invoking, its themes so rich, and I found it so compelling overall. For the casual audience, unless you're a total prude, I recommend at least giving this film a try.

5/5 (Entertainment: Perfect | Story: Perfect | Film: Very Good)
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Sion Sono's magnum opus
Leofwine_draca3 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
LOVE EXPOSURE is a film unlike anything else you've ever seen before or since (although Sion Sono's follow-up movies, made as part of his unconnected trilogy, COLD FISH and GUILTY OF ROMANCE, come close at times). It's an incredibly quirky romance story that concerns a love triangle between three messed-up characters. One of them is a sinister cultist, another a loveless girl who hates men, the third a pervert with a fine line in upskirt photography.

All of these elements come together in one epic story that's very well shot and somehow beautiful despite the often crude themes and very graphic elements of the storyline. It's a film that mixes together a critique of Catholicism with religious cults, voyeurism, pornography, mental health, terrorism, family relationships, and even some karate into one hectic mix. At four hours this is a real test of the viewer's ability to take this incessantly crazy storytelling and I confess that I watched it in two settings as I think one would have been just too much for me to take.

The film boasts fully-rounded characters and psychological depth that you don't often get in the world of Japanese cult cinema. It's a throwback to 1970s-era Japanese exploitation with the character of 'Miss Scorpion' straight out of that decade. It's very funny and completely outrageous, delving down some dark and explicit avenues that most filmmakers wouldn't dare to go. The whole thing builds to a real crescendo with a great and uplifting climax. Most of all, it's very entertaining, surprisingly poignant at times, and Sono sustains the interest from beginning to end. A graphic, unashamed, high art story that keeps on delivering.
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Unexplainable masterpiece
kageboushi24 November 2013
Just watched it for the second time! First of all, I have to say that I'm not really qualified to write a review for such a big, awesome movie. But since its like my all time favorite movie, I can't hold myself back.

I disagree with people who say this is a love movie. If you watch it expecting something like that, you might find it extremely unrealistic and unsatisfying. Of course, its also a love movie, but its much much more than that! Hence 4 hours of duration.

Its a movie which focuses on love, lust, faith etc in an extremely surreal and unique way. I think its a movie about "life" itself. Many things seem crazy in this movie, but I think the real life is no different, we're just used to it. This movie made me re-think life, my life, myself, and question many many things. I think its also a philosophical movie in a way! Lastly, I have to say that the movie is really top notch from almost every aspect, like filming, acting, character development etc. I think there is a lot of philosophy going on behind every little detail that I'm yet to understand this movie fully.

Anyway, I recommend reading other reviews too but be cautious of spoilers!
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Downright peculiar, but terrific
Neil Welch16 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I caught an hour or so of this 4 hour English-subtitled Japanese movie on TV, and was so intrigued that I got the DVD. It is one of the oddest films I have ever seen, so I will do my best to summarise. It will be a long summary, because it is a long film and it rambles all over the place.

Yu is a good Christian boy. His mother dies when he is small. When he reaches his teens his father Tetsu takes up with Keiko, a women of some raunchiness, but there is a falling out, she leaves, and Tetsu's heart becomes somewhat hardened to the extent that he gets religion in a big way and requires Yu to confess his sins regularly. The trouble is that Yu is so anodyne that he doesn't actually have any sins, and the ones he invents to tell his father aren't very convincing. So he joins a gang of delinquents and takes to taking secret photographs of knickers up girls' skirts, and he turns out to have an aptitude for it. On losing a bet with the gang he is required to go round town dressed as a woman in a black trouser suit, long wig, and floppy hat. While in this disguise he goes to the rescue of Yoko who is menaced by a gang, and she kisses him. He falls in love with her, but she falls for the "Miss Scorpion" persona he has adopted. Tetsu and Keiko resume their relationship and it turns out that Yoko (who has now joined Yu's class at school) is Keiko's adoptive daughter. The four of them move in together, but Yoko has no time for Yu. This skeleton synopsis takes us up to the end of the two hours on the first of the two DVDs! At this point the mysterious Koike enters the proceedings. She belongs to the Zero Church religious cult, she says she has a thing for Yu, but she begins to manipulate relationships between the others. In particular she pretends to be Miss Scorpion and lures Yoko into a quasi-romantic relationship: she also spies, taps telephone conversations, and steals Yu's photographs and reveals his secret life as a knicker photographer. Once he has been ostracised, she lures Yoko, Tetso and Keiko into the Zero Church where their programming starts. When Yu finds out, he abducts Yoko to try to de-programme her, and ends up in the Church himself, following which (if you can believe it) things get unpredictable.

This hugely bizarre and very long movie is an astonishing, but always stylish and engaging, mishmash of elements. There is satire, martial arts, soap, tragedy, sex (nothing explicit), violence, and at the heart of it, emotion (specifically, love). Much of the first half is very funny, much of the second half is deadly serious, but it holds the attention throughout. I enjoyed it all, especially the Final Chapter where I genuinely didn't know how it was going to end, but cared deeply.

All three of the young principals give excellent performances. Takahiro Nishijima as the eternal victim Yu gives a performance which is far richer than the nature of his part would appear to demand. Hikari Mitsushima as Yoko delivers something which is far beyond the eye candy which she would initially appear to be. She is also eye-bogglingly cute. And Sakura Ando, while not being as eye-catchingly attractive as Mitsushima gives us a Koike of depraved, reptilian, gleeful malice in an astonishing performance.

I cannot emphasise enough how weird this film is, or how thoroughly I enjoyed it.
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A truly beautiful experience, both artistically and emotionally
ckkcheng18 January 2014
I purchased the DVD of Love Exposure a couple of years ago after reading a number of positive reviews, but never got around to watching it due to the sole reason that it is 237 minutes long. I held it off with the intention of waiting for the right moment where I would find both the time and the motivation to sit through it.

When the motivation came, my initial thought was that it would be one of those films where I would need to grind it out (albeit willingly), as I did with, for example, "La Maman et La Putain" by Jean Eustache, which is nearly as long. While I thoroughly enjoyed La Maman et La Putain, it was a draining experience for me.

I admit that I shouldn't be comparing two films made at completely different times, with different intentions, and from different cinematic cultures. However, if you are looking to watch a film without needing to will yourself into a particular frame of mind, and if we're discussing solely the length of a film, just don't let that put you off watching Love Exposure.

Putting the violence and perversion aside, Love Exposure is purely and simply an exploration of love in the context of humanity. There are a number of characters in the film with distinct histories who are at different stages of their lives, but their objective (to find love) is always the same, as the one thing that they share is their membership of humanity.

The film is complex in that it consists of several layers with a time progression of around 3 to 4 years, but it is by no means difficult to follow nor is it ever dull or exhausting. If anything, there was not one point throughout where I wanted to take my eyes off of the screen, as I was completely engrossed in the character developments into which the director Shion Sono had put so much effort. The beauty of the film lies in the discussion of love, which caters for the romantics as well as the cynics, or better still, the believers and the non-believers.

My intention is neither to add a spoiler nor to analyse the film to an extent where I might kill its enjoyment, but to convince those who read this to give the film a chance, if you happen to be someone who may be wary of its length, or even in a different language (if you are not a Japanese speaker).

I would be more than happy to watch this film again without hesitation, whereas I would not be able to say the same about the majority other films which exceed three hours.
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Too much of everything
mozhoven17 August 2009
After leaving the movie theatre today I couldn't help myself and started trying to fit 'Ai no mukidashi' in, I tried to find its place between all the other movies I watched. I guess there is no hope for me to ever succeed. There is an endless list of things to be said about or connected to, so many discussions to be held about this wonderful little piece of art, that there is no possibility to get to the point. I could continue writing for quite a while, it's just no use. But still there must be something to be said about it. So, what's best? It's so easy to consume! No 4 hour tour de force through discussions about religion, love, art, whatever. But isn't it boring, trivial, dumb? No, not at all. It has more substance than one could handle. It's just pure. You'll love it. For sure. I did.
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Brilliant, gutsy, overwhelming
varun_1202 November 2014
Well, its a four hour film. I had to watch it in 2 sittings. But I was not bored for a second. Yuu, is a catholic boy whose longs for his father's affection, and in order to confess to his priest his to get his attention ends up taking and mastering erotic pictures of girls in public. He falls in love with Yoko who hates her father and ends up living with her father's ex girlfriend. Koike who killed her own father, who is an original sinner, hatches up a plan to convert Yuu's family to her cult.

Yuu tries to get his love Yoko, and counters the plan of Koike, but it all ends up in a huge chaos. Like other Japanese films, its a bit quaint, but again very well made. This film is not for everybody for sure. There's erections (in pants, not real) and upskirt scenes throughout the film. But they are important and the story demands them.

The movie films a bit ridiculous and unreal sometimes, but never boring though. That's the cool thing about the Japanese films, the are a but different but still very good. It's a mind blowing love story, a love story that's explosive, which pretty much justifies its name. The climax seems it should have come a bit earlier but thats all right. Cinematography is pretty good, overall a top notch film. Worth watching if you want to view a different type of love story.
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Sono's four hour film is a grand unconventional spectacle
jmaruyama7 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Shion Sono's "Ai No Mukidashi AKA Love Exposure" may not be for everyone but for those who are willing to look beyond its controversial views on faith, love and belief, the film is a reflective, sometimes absurd but enjoyable and memorable film experience from an unconventional director.

The film revolves around the tragic character of Honda Yu (portrayed by likable singer turned actor Nishijima Takahiro, leader of the Jpop dance group AAA) an earnest yet emotionally stunted high school student who lives a humble life of prayer and reflection with his father Tetsu (the wonderful character actor Watabe Atsuro) who is a Catholic pastor in a little Japanese hamlet by the sea. Yu's mother died a number of years earlier of illness but assured Yu that one day his "madonna" will come to him. Their peaceful and idyllic life is soon turned upside down by the unwelcome appearance of thirty-something party girl Kaori (former model turned actress Watanabe Makiko) who despite her party girl ways has come to Tetsu's church for personal redemption.

Much to Yu's chagrin, his lonely father soon becomes infatuated with the carefree stranger and their "bad romance" soon effects Tetsu's personality in an adverse way. After Makiko leaves Testu for a younger man, Testu takes his frustrations out on Yu and forces him to confess his sins everyday. This causes Yu to develop a psychological obsession with "sins" and thus he begins a quest to expose himself to all forms of sinful acts (outside of killing) so that he can confess his sins and earn his father's forgiveness. Along the way he meets up with "Sempai" and his gang of juveniles who teach him how to become a teenage delinquent (how to fight, shoplift, etc.). They even go under the tutelage of a "sex mania" guru who shows them how to covertly take "upskirt" photos of girl's panties. Yu becomes such an expert at this skill that he becomes known as a "Hentai King" (pervert king) and earns the admiration among Sempai's gang. During one of their outings for girls, Yu dresses up as Kaji Meiko's "Sasori/Scorpion" character from Toei's "Jyoshu 701 Go Sasori" film and gets into a gang fight involving a new high school transfer student, the beautiful "sukeban" Yoko (portrayed by the alluring Mitsushima Hikari). Yu immediately realizes that she is the "madonna" that his mother foresaw and becomes infatuated with her. Yoko on the other hand mistakenly believes that the androgynous Yu is a girl and falls in love with Yu's "Sasori" persona. To add insult to injury Yu soon finds out that Yoko is also the adopted daughter of Kaori who returns to Tetsu's church asking for forgiveness and his love.

Amidst this bizarre love triangle, appears the enigmatic Koike (played with sadistic glee by Ando Sakura) whose father was a high ranking priest in the Scientology-like church called "Zero Church" and who beat her using Flagellation as a means of repentance (in flashback we see Koike killing her father in a grisly fashion reminiscent of the film "Ai No Corrida AKA Realm of the Senses"). Using the Church's influence and power, Koike manipulates and sabotages Yu and Yoko's budding romance and even destroys Yu's reputation by exposing him to his classmates as a "hentai". Yoko, Yu's father and Kaori are also abducted by Koike's underlings and forced to join the Zero Church. Can Yu save his family and his "madonna" before they are lost to him forever?

"Love Exposure" is definitely a departure from Sono's previous J-Horror films "Jisatsu Circle" and "Exte" and is a much more reflective film which uses stylized and controlled visuals to tell its unconventional story. From its cast of bizarre characters to the edgy cinematography, and music (90s punk band Fura Fura Teikoku) it seems more like a psychedelic 70s experimental/exploitation film. Even the poster art for the film was unique (cute faced Mitsushima "giving everyone the finger"). It certainly set the tone for the film.

While Sono's story clearly was his cynical commentary on Japanese society and structured religion (particularly blind obedience to God as professed by crazed cults like Aum and its ilk) I also sense that he wanted to explore the idea of obsession in the media (obsessions with sex, etc.) The story does stray off focus at times and brings in too many zany side stories and other off-beat elements. Sono definitely tries to emulate the much en vogue Tarantino "Pulp Fiction" style of movie (Sono splits the movie up in Chapters a la "Kill Bill") and includes a lot of pop culture references, but it does seem a bit much at times and too gratuitous (while I loved the tribute to 70s Sukeban Pinky Violence cinema, it seemed like pandering to fan boy service).

Nishijima is geeky cool as the troubled Yu. While a little rough around the edges in some parts, his film acting debut here makes a good impression and I hope he makes more films. Mitsushima is also very cool in this movie. She brings both a fresh look to her part as well as intoxicating charm. Her athleticism is also very impressive and I wouldn't be surprised to see her in more action roles in the future. Ando is however the clear standout as the "bitch to hate" character of Koike. Like "Lost's" Benjamin Linus character, Koike is a grand manipulator and agent of chaos who loves nothing more than twisting and destroying the lives of those around her (for the higher cause). With her narrowed eyed, evil smirk Ando's holy terror Koike seems to relish in the mayhem she instigates and is truly one of the most spiteful villains in recent Japanese cinema.

At a butt-numbing four hours, Sono's film is like a grand, crazy opus of perversion and absurdity. Its controversial views on Catholicism, belief, obsession and love will surely infuriate some but will also make a lasting impression on all.
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Highly provocative and entertaining
christopher-underwood17 February 2010
A couple of obvious points first; this film could only have been made in Japan and it could have been a little shorter. With regard to the first point, this has all the vivid juxtaposition, religious ceremony and erections, philosophising and numerous up skirt shots, fans of modern Japanese cinema will be familiar with, but that others should be prepared. Lengthwise, this does not turn out to be a problem, although at the start of the second disc, I did start to wonder whether we should have finished already. Things do pick up, however, and I enjoyed it all. The film is fairly complex but nothing like as confusing as many a Japanese film I have seen a quarter of this length. Highly provocative and entertaining with much to involve the viewer both intellectually and emotionally. Always good to look at there are occasional lapses perhaps because of budgetary restraints, but overall a very good and very well worth seeing film. I suppose my only real reservation is that if the third hour had been as good as the first two and last this would have been a truly excellent movie.
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