Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Japan Cuts ’17: Another Recent Film from the Prolific Sion Sono

Each film in Nikkatsu’s relaunch of the iconic but formulaic soft-core series (see Dawn of the Felines and Wet Woman in the Wind for reference) is not supposed to exceed eighty minutes. Check. There is also supposed to be a sex scene every ten minutes. In this case, that sort of happens, but not really. Of course, Sion Sono is all about breaking rules. When he tries his hand at a R-P, he produces one of his most feminist films yet in Antip0rn0 (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Japan Cuts Festival of New Japanese Film in New York.

Kyoko is the new It Girl of fashion and chick lit, but she is a hot and mean mess. She will lead her submissive assistant Noriko down a rabbit hole of humiliation and degradation to disturbing depths. However, things are not what they seem. Instead of a sex scene, Sono delivers a world-upending rug pull every ten minutes. Of course, they usually involve plenty of nudity. Plus, dig that groovy color palette.

While it would be spoilery to explain too much, the previous Sono film AP probably shares the closest kinship with would be Tag, which also relied on strong female characters. Whereas Tag challenged its primary trio to literally give their performances on the run, AP demands full physical and emotional exposure from Ami Tomite and Mariko Tsutsui, as Kyoko and Noriko respectively. They also cover an emotional range like you wouldn't believe and often have to turn on a dime (again, it is hard to cite specifics without giving the game away).

AP is a heck of a mind-you-know-what, which is sort of appropriate to the genre, notwithstanding the degree that Sono totally and utterly deconstructs it. Yet, even at seventy-five minutes, the defiant gamesmanship starts to run out of gas in the closing act. Still, it really has to be seen to be believed—and much like Kazuya Shiraishi’s Felines, if you find it arousing, you should probably seek professional help.

Indeed, the “Anti” is no lie. It is another strange but deeply compelling provocation from a compulsively-risk-taking auteur. Highly recommended for Sono’s admirers (but ironically, not so much for R-P fans), Anti screens this Saturday night (7/22) at the Japan Society, as part of this year’s Japan Cuts.