The Forest of Love 愛なき森で叫べ Dir: Sion Sono (2019)

The Forest of Love    Forest of Love Film Poster

愛なき森で叫べ  Ai naki mori de sakebe

Release Date: October 11th, 2019

Duration: 151 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Script) 

Starring: Kippei Shiina (Joe Murata), Shinnosuke Mitsushima (Shin), Kyoko Hinami (taeko), Eri Kamataki (Mitsuko), Young Dais, Natsuki Kawamura, Denden, Hiroko Yashiki,

Website IMDB

American streaming services like Netflix have given a new lease of life to Japanese creatives who have access to greater financial muscle and creative freedom and a wider audience so that means the fetters of the traditional Japanese system are off for the visionaries and the sky is the limit. That Sion Sono, simultaneous enfant terrible and wunderkind of Japanese cinema, was tapped to make a movie for Netflix was exciting news especially after his heart attack this year. What he turns in is a long and ornate tale of murder that sometimes plays like a greatest-hits of his previous work but is delivered with such aplomb and dexterity as well as some special performances it remains entertaining.

Sono channels a rather horrific series of real-life murders into a film much like he did with Cold Fish but makes the most of the budget to craft a rather rambling and highly theatrical story split into chapters.

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The Virgin Psychics 映画みんな!エスパーだよ Dir: Sion Sono (2015)

The Virgin Psychics    The Virgin Psychics Film Poster

映画みんな!エスパーだよ「Eiga Minna! Esupa- Dayo!」

Release Date: September 04th, 2015

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Sion Sono,

Writer: Sion Sono, Shinichi Tanaka (Screenplay), Kiminori Wakasugi (Original Manga),

Starring:  Shota Sometani, Elaiza Ikea, Erina Mano, Makita Sports, Anna Konno, Motoki Fukami, Ai Shinozaki, Tokio Emoto, Megumi Kagurazaka,

Website IMDB

This is directed by Sion Sono one of the world’s great contemporary directors who built a career on existential drama/horror like Suicide CircleStrange Circus, and Noriko’s Dinner Table. 2015 saw the release of six of his films, three of which were froma  franchise including this one. This is based on a TV dorama that is based on a manga written by Kiminori Wakasugi, creator of the hilarious Detroit Metal City. After a first viewing I was tempted to write it off as an insincere cash-in on a smutty comic book and Tenga sex toys but I will be generous and say that the film is an unashamed celebration of raging hormones and naive love (as well as Tenga sex toys) wrapped up in a knowingly stupid story.

We’re not watching Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, we’re watching the misadventures of Yoshiro “Yocchan” Kamogawa (Shota Sometani), ordinary (virgin) high school boy in Toyohashi. It is a city with more good-looking women than anywhere else in the world, apparently, but he can’t get laid because he’s a bit of a nerd. He finds his life literally changes overnight when he wakes up with the ability to read other people’s minds. Sounds awesome! But he cannot use it effectively since he is caught up in an obsession with the idea that a classmate named Sae (Erina Mano) is his destined girl. He has a dream that they formed a mental connection while their mothers sat next to each other in the hospital when they were both still in the womb. Destiny does seem to have a hand in their meeting because she is the daughter of a travelling scientist (Ken Yasuda) who is in town to discover psychics!

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Tag リアル鬼ごっこ Dir: Sion Sono (2015)


Tag Film Poster
Tag Film Poster

リアル鬼ごっこ  「Riaru Onigokko

Release Date: July 11th, 2015

Duration: 85 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay), Yusuke Yamada (Original Novel)

Starring:  Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuka Sakurai, Maryjun Takahashi, Rin Honoa Cyborg Kaori, Mao Mita, Izumi, Mika Akizuki,

Website   IMDB

Kinetic and balletic. Bullets and buckshot fly. Hit bodies. Blood and body-parts splatter the sets. People drop to the floor amidst blood and gore. By people, I mean young females. A high-school girl named Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) is our first protag. Pretty much stunned and helpless, she flees scenes of carnage every few minutes. She runs the same gauntlet ad infinitum: a scene is established, a feeling of grue overcomes her and gratuitous violence erupts. As she escapes she dodges a number of antagonists: a supernatural scythe-like wind that decapitates busloads of schoolgirls and dismembers random passers-by at first, and then she flees a massacre orchestrated by teachers carrying military-grade weapons that cause ridiculous damage. Over the course of her escape, she transforms into… a bride named Keiko (Mariko Shinoda) who has a wedding from hell as it devolves into a mass brawl full of kung-fu kicking and jagged glass bottles for people to get stuck with. And then she turns into a marathon runner named Izumi (Erina Mano) who has to sprint away from danger. These ladies have all become involved in a fatal game of “tag” where they narrowly avoid death with every step. But can they break the cycle by making it to the end and what is awaiting them at the finishing line?

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Love & Peace ラブ&ピース Dir: Sion Sono (2015)

Love & Peace      

Love and Peace Film Poster
Love and Peace Film Poster

ラブ&ピース Rabu & Pisu

Release Date: June 27th, 2015

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring:  Hiroki Hasegawa, Kumiko Aso, Tohiyuki Nishida, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Eita Okuno, Makita Sports, Erina Mano, Megumi Kagurazaka, Miyuki Matsuda

Website IMDB

Christmas movies range far and wide in terms of content from Heavenly interventions seen in Frank Capra’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life to the monstrous antics of the little green Gremlins seen in Joe Dante’s same-named film but these appear normal compared to Sion Sono‘s 2015 film Love & Peace which takes the seasonal setting and goes down a radically different path as he makes genre mash-up of a Christmas movie with a kaiju rock opera epic with a little help from Santa

Ryoichi Suzuki (Hiroki Hasegawa) once dreamed of becoming a punk rock star but he gave up on his dreams and became a salaryman at a musical instrument parts company in Tokyo. Life is miserable because he is bullied by his colleagues and he has no friends but he has feelings for a timid office lady named Yuko Terashima (Kumiko Aso) whose kindness towards him keeps him from going insane. Alas, he can’t express his love for her. but fate soon strikes!

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Antiporno アンチポルノ Dir: Sion Sono (2016)


アンチポルノ 「AnchiporunoAntiporno Film Poster

Running Time: 78 mins

Release Date: January 28th, 2017

Director:  Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Ami Tomite, Mariko Tsutsui, Asami, Fujiko, Ami Fukuda, Honoka Ishibashi, Yuya Takayama,

Website IMDB

The Roman Porno Reboot is a celebration of the series of softcore films put out by Nikkatsu from the 70s to the late 80s. Roman Porno is a realm where writers and directors can exercise creative freedom in content so long as they adhere to tight shooting deadlines and insert a sex scene in the proceedings every so often. Sion Sono is one of the veteran directors who took part in this reboot and he has taken this freedom to creative extremes and made a challenging film, an overwhelming visual and aural assault on the senses that delivers a feminist diatribe against the subjection of women.

The story starts with Kyoko (Ami Tomite), a highly-strung celebrity novelist and artist who also considers herself a super whore exploring the furthest reaches of sex. She is feeling the nerves before an interview and photo shoot with a major magazine writer and fashion photographer so she decides to take her insecurities out on her older eager-to-please assistant Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui) whom she sadistically humiliates through various lewd acts. The intensity ratchets up through the actual interview as Noriko, in an effort to be a whore like Kyoko, allows herself to be violated by the photographer’s assistants whilst being denigrated by Kyoko.

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The Sion Sono 園子温という生きもの Dir: Arata Oshima (2016)

Jonetsu tairiku Presents Sono Shion to iu ikimono    

Sono Shion to iu ikmono Film Poster
Sono Shion to iu ikmono Film Poster

園子温という生きもの Sono Shion to iu ikmono 

Running Time: 97 mins.

Release Date: May 14th, 2016

Director: Arata Oshima

Writer: N/A

Starring: Sion Sono, Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido, Megumi Kagurazaka, Eri, Naoto Tanobe, Takuji Yasuoka,

Website    IMDB

Third Window Films’ recent release of The Whispering Star (2016) was paired up with The Sion Sono, a documentary directed by Arata Oshima, son of legendary filmmaker Nagisa Oshima. Both films were originally released on the same day in Japan and prove to be the perfect partners for a home format release since they capture moments in the evolving career of Sion Sono, Japan’s most maverick multi-hyphante talent.

Sono is a poet, painter, writer, filmmaker, and rebel who decries convention and has taken on the role of subversive provocateur daring to tackle all manner of subjects and genres in his films. Gory horror, family drama, political and social diatribes, comedy, and everything in between have been mined to create a truly unique filmography of over 40 films and this documentary traces the origins of his work ethic, his love of films, and give a glimpse of the real character behind the cult figure.

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The Whispering Star  ひそひそ星 Dir: Sion Sono (2016)

The Whispering Star    

The Whispering Star Film Poster
The Whispering Star Film Poster

ひそひそ星「Hiso Hiso Boshi

Running Time: 101 mins.

Release Date: May 14th, 2016

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay)

Starring: Megumi Kagurazaka, Kenji Endo, Yuto Ikeda, Mori Kouko,

Website    IMDB

The Whispering Star was originally created and screened as part of an art exhibition which had the theme of dystopia running through it. That theme is more than adequately captured in this black fable about a robot travelling amidst the remnants of humanity. It was shot in different locations in Fukushima prefecture, turning depopulated and irradiated areas into a futuristic landscape that speaks of hopelessness, pollution, and abandonment delivered in slow sketches until the film ends on a touching note of human contact. It shows good control of material from Sion Sono but that’s to be expected from a man who has been in the industry since the 80s.

At the start of the film we learn that multiple nuclear disasters and other mistakes have forced people to migrate to the stars. Humans are scattered across a myriad of planets and are on the verge of extinction as their will to live and explore flickers out in the face of technology and ennui. What keeps people hanging on are robots with AI who operate an interplanetary delivery system, facilitating a new sort of human contact.

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Eureka release Sion Sono’s “Tag” on Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition on November 20 2017

Eureka have scored a coup by getting Tag as part of their catalogue following on from Tokyo Tribe. The release will be on dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition on November 20th 2017 after getting shown at festivals around the UK.

I remember when this came out and I felt rather down because it was based on a long-running series of death-game movies and it featured schoolgirls and disturbing imagery. I was quite negative about it but that was premature. It turns out the film was pro-feminist and pretty fun (that’ll teach me about assumptions…).

“High levels of upskirt photography and grisly dismemberment notwithstanding, it’s perfectly legitimate to read “Tag” as a girl-power “Alice in Wonderland” variant in which three versions of Japanese womanhood find the means to kick against a male-controlled system that would seek to assign them positions of subservience and/or victimhood. Though action and excitement are clearly Sono’s primary concerns, viewers searching for deeper meaning to all this mayhem will certainly find plenty to think about along the way.” Richard Kuipers Variety

Tag Film Image 2
Down with the patriarchy!

Sion Sono is one of my favourite directors (I have dedicated two seasons to the man’s work) and in recent years he has brought in a more feminist take on Japanese media. This film is based on a 2001 novel by Yusuke Yamada where people get involved in a “real hide-and-seek game” involving people with the family name Sato and a killer ghost. Five films were made and Tag is the latest one. For this film, schoolgirls replace people with the Sato family name.

Tag Film Image

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Sion Sono’s “Tag” will be screened at Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival on October 14th

Eureka have scored a coup by getting Tag as part of their catalogue following on from Tokyo Tribe. The release will be on dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition on November 20th 2017 after getting shown at festivals around the UK. One of those festivals is Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival (October 12th – 15th) on October 14th. The festival takes place at Nottingham’s Broadway cinema and there are a couple of other Asian films on show.

Here are the Japanese and Japanese-themed entries in the programme:

Tag Film Image 3

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Sion Sono’s “Love and Peace” now available to pre-order! Out JULY 11th on DVD and BLURAY!

Great news! The film distributor Third Window Films has announced a release date for Love and Peace! It will be out on DVD and Bluray from July 11th!!!

This announcement is on the appropriate day since it’s World Turtle Day and the film features a magical turtle!

Love and Peace Pikadon!
Love and Peace Pikadon!

Continue reading “Sion Sono’s “Love and Peace” now available to pre-order! Out JULY 11th on DVD and BLURAY!”