Hoping for a closer relationship with his heartbroken father, his father a recently anointed priest in the Catholic Church, their relationship limited to the confessional, Yu Tsunoda begins to master the art of photographing women’s undergarments with masterful “pervert” techniques or, let me be clearer, photographing strangers and passers-by using “pervert gymnastics” to catch a glimpse under women’s dresses. Forced to dress as a woman after losing a bet, he meets Yoko, his Maria, his virgin bride-to-be, his destined lover, prophesied to him years before by his dying mother, when he is caught in a gang battle … of sorts.
And with all this, a strange and mesmerizing four-hour opus begins that will take us through comedy and tragedy, through piety and dogmatism, through love and fear, through hope and violence, with identity, family and community thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to accurately describe Love Exposure—and my short synopsis does not begin to do it justice—as the movie morphs and changes, winking to the informed spectator along the way, travelling through genres as it pleases, inciting a plethora of emotions that leave us dazzled, disoriented and spent by its end. From the mind of Japanese director Sion Sono (Hair Ex-tensions), heralded by several critics as one of the best films of the decade, Love Exposure is a singular experience, visually powerful, haunting and impressive and it is truly a landmark achievement for Sono. It is analogous to a musical composition: movements of elevating quality paired with moments of calm serenity, with different times and tempos for different parts of the film; the screenplay using the characters in a dynamic way to impress upon us the nature of specific scenes or sequences. The story almost seems secondary, and yet it is itself marvellous and varied, touching and repulsive, taxing and lyric. Even with all this description, I seem to be missing something, something important about the experience that I cannot translate or communicate. It must be the film’s beauty that these words fail to capture and so Love Exposure is a beautiful film, a treasure, a cherished secret, one that I find myself unwilling to share but incapable of keeping, and one of the best films of this year.