Wednesday, August 13, 2014


A 4X3 frame within the widescreen opens on a gaudy toothpaste ad with a cute little girl in white singing a toxically catchy jingle. Not too much later she skips into her palatial home, removing her shoes at the door and springs into the living room which has the deepest red carpet you have ever seen. Except it's shiny. Except she's ankle deep in it and her frilly white lace socks are now the same red. She slips and skids through the saloon doors to the next room which is filled with the bodies of hacked up Yakuzas. The only one alive tells the girl that her mother kicks arse. The girl takes it in her stride. Her father is the boss of her neighbourhood's Yakuza gang. She's seen this kind of thing before.

Snaking through this is her father overseeing not only his gang but the changing of the madam ceremony at one of his brothels as a pair of tradies change the neon sign outside reflecting this. A gang of teen would-filmmakers calling themselves the Fuck Bombers roam the streets looking for true life action, finding the bloodied Yakuza form my first par staggering away from the scene. After he, flattered, agrees to be filmed  the movie gang go to a local shrine and pray to the Movie God that they will break through. The mother of the little girl chases another Yakuza who got away with the kitchen knife she used on the others, dispatches him on an overhead walkway and turns herself in, intimidating the cop in the mini station to get some back up to make a proper arrest. A title tells us that this happened "about ten years ago." We are in a Sion Sono movie and we are not going to escape until the end credits.

But we won't want to. Its two hours, nine minutes on screen feel like about forty-five minutes.

About ten years later the Yakuza mother is about to be released from prison and is expecting the feature film that her husband has promised to make about their daughter who has run away following a bloody raid from a rival gang and has collared Koji who had (age appropriately) lusted after her as the kid in the commercial. The Fuck Bombers sit around in the now closed cinema where they used to hang and repeatedly watch the impressive trailer for the feature film they never made. Their action hero who wanted to be a Yakuza is so disenchanted that he pines to go full time on his waiting job in a restaurant. The gang who were so solidly dispatched all that time ago are now led by a man who has insisted on a traditional approach to gangsterism involving swords and kimonos. He is also smitten with the girl from the ad whom he met about ten years back. He is now ready to annihilate the rival gang led by the girl's father. Oh, the girl is now twenty, bratty and beautiful and only kind of wants to be a movie star. Her Roman Holiday flight from the fold will bring everyone together in a series of plot twists so bonkers that they create an immunity to plot hole pickers. And we're only about an hour in.

Sion Sono, whose career defies categorisation, has crafted a kind of wrap party for 35 mm film production and provides a pageant of Japanese cinema history and its ready use of extreme violence (always well in advance of the West) as Yakuza and Samurai battle both cartoonishly and confrontingly. But while that is  the case it is mercifully free of the puppyish eagerness of a Tarantino. QT would never do something like the broken glass farewell kiss that Mitsuko gives halfway through; it takes a very special mind to invent that. Sono has intentionally subverted and even jettisoned narrative structure when he's got interested in other elements but when he's on as a storyteller every frame is pressed into service. Almost all the performances here are a notch below the hysteria that would implode them. Now and then a cute moment, sure, but it's always set among scenes with shark teeth.

Sono again weaves wonders with a highly eclectic mix of music (mostly sourced) and stocks with various quality levels of video happily trading screen time with the gorgeous 35 mm images, going from highschool noise to Kubrickian splendour. He is a modern master and all I wish for him is that he keeps doing whatever the hell he wants to.

Fuck Bombers forever! Yataaaaai!

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