Friday, May 25, 2012


The three main characters in Love Exposure share one thing in common; they were all damaged by their fathers, but in different ways.  Yu’s mother dies while he’s in grade school, so his father Tetsu joins the priesthood as a way of dealing with the pain.  After all, you can turn your loneliness into a virtue by claiming abstinence.  

Yu follows his father’s priestly ways (not Jason Priestly ways you dumbass) by suppressing his sexuality.  However, Tetsu develops feelings for a woman named Kaori, and this conflict torments him.  He takes this guilt out on Yu by forcing him to confess, hoping to experience redemption through his own son.  Tetsu even tries to beat a confession out of his son, but Yu is genuinely innocent and has no actual sins to confess.  

This comically leaves Yu in the position of being forced to sin to appease his father, as he ultimately deeply cares for him and seeks his approval.  Yu also seeks the approval of his dead mother, so he also aims to fulfill her final request; that he marry a girl as pure as the Virgin Mary.  That would seem to be a rather contradictory dual quest, but such is life in this movie.

Yu’s father is very well developed as a character and has his reasons why he does what he does, and therefore he becomes sympathetic.  However, the fathers of the female co-leads Yoko and Koike are simply scumbags, and therefore don’t really need a backstory.  Both Koike and Yoko were viciously beaten by their fathers growing up, and both grow up to hate men as a result.  Yoko externalizes her hatred for men, even beating up random guys on the street for fun.  Koike's way of coping is altogether less healthy, as she internalizes her psychosis and eventually turns into a conniving manipulator, more likely to swindle a man than kick his ass.

These three characters are broken by their respective fathers, but they each rise up to create their own lives and moral compasses.  Perversion becomes Yu’s ticket to confidence and acceptance.  His minor sinning (beating up a vending machine) leads him to eventually learn the art of sinning from a master pervert, which entails snapping upskirt pics.  Lots of upskirt pics.  In all kinds of inventive ways.

In fact, Yu becomes the Bruce Lee of taking upskirt pics.  Dude is a friggin' machine.

This might seem sleazy at first glance (and, who are we kidding, at second glance and third glance and...), but as it unfolds during the movie, Yu's determination to document every pair of panties in greater Japan (a panty census, if you will) becomes a noble quest to redeem his father, establish his own identity in the world, and become loved and accepted.  Sounds like a good gig all things considered.

Yu’s quest doesn't end there.  He still has to fulfill his mother’s dying wish and find his Virgin Mary.  Lo and behold, one day he stumbles on both a holy vision of loveliness and an ass-kicking machine.  Oh, and she is also an upskirt waiting to happen at any given moment.  All things considered, Yoko is my kind of woman, and most definitely Yu's kind of woman. 

One minor problem though (and the astute reader should have already seen this coming); Yu is a dude, and Yoko despises men more than John McEnroe despises referees.  Thankfully, when Yu initially meets Yoko, he is dressed as Miss Scorpion from the Female Scorpion movies (it's a long story), so everything should come up roses assuming Yu can pretend to be a chick movie character for the rest of his life.  Well, maybe that's unrealistic.  

His love quest hits a further snag when Koike, ever lurking in the background, steals his Miss Scorpion costume and pretends to be the character in order to seduce Yoko and leave Yu in the dust.  

If that isn't already a case of a good guy having his heart snapped in half, Yoko happens to be Kaori's (Yu's father's squeeze) stepdaughter.  Tetsu and Kaori decide to move in together and, what do you know, Yoko and Yu become step-siblings.  To make matters worse, Koike becomes a fixture in their household as Yoko's new lesbian lover, stealing the groundwork laid by Yu and rubbing it in his face.  Life can be a cruel bitch sometimes.

As you might imagine, Koike has an ulterior motive.  She's a recruiter for the Scientology-esque Church Zero, and is attempting to infiltrate the family in order to convert them.  After all, if you convert a priest and his family, that's a big selling point one can use to recruit even more members.  It's one of those "religious satire" deals, and is just one of many subtextual subplots in the film.

At the core is a love triangle plot reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy, as Yoko and Yu are destined to be lovebirds, but a series of misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and extenuating circumstances keep them apart.  Supplementing this central love story are relevant detours that enrich the movie.  The characters are all fleshed out in their own backstories, like a T.V. series that has an episode mostly devoted to developing a secondary character.  If you've heard only one thing about Love Exposure, it's that you've heard that it's 4 hours long.  However, this is the breeziest 4 hour movie you'll ever see, as it feels like a T.V. series that has been breathlessly and seamlessly edited down, jumping back and forward in time to tell a sprawling story while keeping the love triangle as the central thrust of the movie. 

Never has an epic love story been filled with so many perverse delights.  This ain't Doctor Zhivago, folks.  Yet, because the main characters were all raised in some kind of perversion or violence, this so-called perversity is normal to them, and therefore not incongruous when placed side by side with a heartfelt love story.  So, through ingenious plotting borne out of character motivations, director Shion Sono manages to seamlessly integrate a character-based love story with Japanese cult movie elements.  

With that in mind let's check those drive-in totals.  We got: training sequence-fu, school shooting-fu, gratuitous giffability, gratuitous cocaine trafficking, sacrilegion-fu, gratuitous castration of a hard-on, hard-on-fu (a different hard-on), gratuitous use of a box cutter to commit wrist seppuku, gratuitous awkwardness between step-siblings, sledgehammer demolition-fu, and the gratuitous confession of sins.  Drive-in World Record for upskirt-fu (you can go ahead and etch that one in stone).

Drive-in Academy Award nominations for Takahiro Nishijima as Yu Honda, for instilling homosexual panic as a cross dresser in ways not seen since the days of Dave Foley dressing up as a Montreal street hooker, Koji Ohguchi as Lloyd, for telling Yu to "become erect with your heart", Hikari Mitsushima as Yoko for saying "Jesus, I approve of you as the only cool man besides Kurt Cobain" and managing to stay cute as a button even when thrashing street thugs, and, of course, director Shion Sono for crafting an epic love poem for the damaged, and doing it the drive-in way.


  1. Holy shit. That's a lot of fu.

    This looks like the best upskirt-fu movie ever made.

    Funny you should mention the Female Prisoner movies, as I just watched Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion, like, a couple of days ago.

    Oh, and I dig the new look. The background reminds me of the DVD art for the movie The Taint.

  2. @Yummage

    Not only is it the best upskirt-fu movie ever made, it owns the top 10 slots.

    Good cal on The Taint. I may change the design again at some point using the same motif (the neon Suzy Putterman as faux-Patty Hearst guerilla)