Nov 21, 2017

Antiporno (Sion Sono, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

When Nikkatsu studio (the very same one that once orchestrated the expulsion of the recently deceased maestro Seijun Suzuki) asked Sion Sono to contribute to their revived Roman Porno series, it must have slipped their minds he is considered the norm-breaking enfant terrible of the Japanese cinema. Or maybe it didn't? Maybe they got what they deserved... pardon, wished for?

The rules of the abovementioned sub-genre dictate less than eighty minutes of length and a softcore sex scene every ten minutes. Indeed, Antiporno does not exceed the canonic time-frame (which makes it Sono's shortest feature to date) and there are sex scenes now and then, but they are conceived as anti-voyeuristic rather than titillating acts solely to serve the author's deconstructive agenda (think Ming-liang Tsai's The Wayward Cloud).

Speaking of deconstruction, what initially appears to be pretty close to a filmed stage play (and what a gorgeous one at that!) soon turns out to be (a mild spoiler ahead!) a film within a film within a heroine's mind or something along these lines. As the story (of a woman's emancipation, sexual awareness and repression, as well as position in Japanese movie industry and society) progresses, the viewer falls deeper and deeper through the rabbit hole of an incessantly altering reality.

The first time we meet our protagonist, Kyōko (Ami Tomite, who has lately become Sono's regular star), she lies on her bed, almost naked, as if she has just awaken after a wild night of sweaty fun. Pulling her panties up, she lazily gets up, as her chic minimalist pop-art apartment screams in primary colors (mostly yellow). Her morning routine involves peeing and talking to herself in a broken mirror, some prancing around in a fluttering tulle dress and conversing to her (imaginary?) sister about butterflies and a lizard trapped in a bottle which are clear metaphors for her virgin-whore 'condition'.

Following the arrival of her assistant, Noriko (the outstanding Mariko Tsutsui of Harmonium fame), is the no-holds-barred portrayal of their sadomasochistic relationship and Kyoko's spiraling into madness which requires both actresses baring their all, not only physical, but emotional as well. With their commitment unwavering and the eccentric, over-the-top performances by supporting (mostly female) cast, Sono delivers the most feminist work of his career which is a great accomplishment for someone who has been frequently accused of misogyny.

And make no mistake - his inner fighter for women's rights doesn't shy away from using any tool and strategy to make her point, and not to mention she couldn't care less if you call her a cruel bitch. On top of that, he has a lot to say about art in general, whether his peers and the potential audience will like it or not, and he pulls you into a relentless, somewhat absurd and highly critical game of guessing and shame. All the while, you are treated to the astonishing imagery ranging from dreamy to lucid, but always uncomfortably sensual (kudos to Takeshi Matsuzuka for the superb art direction), with the cathartic (or rather, hysterical) finale redefining the term 'eye-candy'.

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