Love Exposure Blu-ray Review
Will you want to expose yourself to this Blu-ray?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 13, 2012
In one of the funniest (if unintentional) punch lines from my youth, my Mother's response to one of my sisters'
conversion to Catholicism left me in giggling fits right there in the church during the confirmation Mass which included my
sister taking a new "Catholic" middle name of a saint. My sister, who
was not exactly the best behaved child and in fact had been exiled to my Aunt's home halfway across the United States
from my family's domicile during my sister's senior year in
high school after her illicit dalliances with her then boyfriend were discovered, had to confess her sins as part of this
ceremony which we all witnessed. My sister was in and out of the confession booth in a matter of mere moments and
Mother, without a hint of irony, turned to us and stated firmly, "She can't possibly have confessed everything she's
done in that short amount of time." I'm pretty sure Mom was joking, but Tetsu (Atsuro Watabe), the father in Sion
Sono's excruciatingly (no pun
intended, considering the root of that word) long Love Exposure
, is deadly serious when he insists his son Yu
(Takahiro Nishijima) confess his sins, sins which the poor boy hasn't even really committed. Some eyebrows may have
been at least slightly raised when Olive Films' Frank Tarzi revealed Olive would be releasing some Sion films (in our
with him) on Blu-ray, for Sion is not exactly a
household name in the West and even in his own country is seen as something of a provocateur
is, despite its controversial subject matter, not as in your face as some other Sion pieces, but it manages
to create its own quasi-hallucinatory fervor over the course of its four hour (yes, four hour) running time, first in its
depiction of the dysfunctional relationship between Yu and his father, and then the psychological minefield that erupts
within Yu once he decides that since he's confessing to sins he hasn't been committing, he might as well go ahead and
There are any number of reasons for religious fanaticism, as even some sad headlines beaming around the world the
day this review is being written attest. Who can really come up with an adequate reason for why faith becomes
makes a few faltering attempts to answer this question with regard to Yu's increasingly hard line
father, but the film is really more interested in exploring the effects
of the father's fanaticism rather than its
Though the film begins with a dreamlike reminiscence of Yu and his ailing mother praying before a statue of the Virgin
Mary, things turn more toward the nightmare end of the spectrum rather quickly. Yu's mother dies, and Yu's father
up with a sort of punk or proto-Goth younger girlfriend, Kaori (Makiko Watanabe), who ends up ditching him, leading to
beginning of what might charitably be termed an emotional breakdown.
Tetsu gets involved with a bizarre fundamentalist church and begins insisting that Yu confess, perhaps projecting some
deeply felt guilt in his own soul onto his son. Yu is initially confused, but as his father becomes more emotionally and
physically abusive, decides the best way out is simply to comply, and that in turn leads him to actually begin sinning,
which is where Love Exposure
starts to become really
odd. Yu's sin is sneaking photos up the skirts of
various girls to capture pictures of their panties. Adding into this kind of unseemly element are two simultaneously
unfolding issues: the first is Yu cross-dressing as a character he calls Miss Scorpion, and the second is a romance he
begins to foster with Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima). While the love affair might initially be seen as something of a saving
grace, it's complicated by two facts: Yoko has fallen for Yu in his role of Miss Scorpion, and Yoko is also Kaori's daughter
and has had a similarly tempestuous relationship with her parent, just as Yu has.
As if that
weren't enough, there's a third character in Love Exposure
who, like Yu and Yoko, is nursing
her own wounds. Koike (Sakura Ando) is also the victim of abuse, and she has literally taken matters into her own
hands as a result, no to the physical betterment of her father (you'll understand more if you watch the film). Koike also
begins dressing as Miss Scorpion, leading to a bizarre love triangle of sorts where Yoko, enamored of Miss Scorpion no
matter who is "playing" her, ends up creating some unwitting tension and jealousy.
As is probably clear from this précis
which frankly barely touches on some of the film's more peculiar aspects,
is going to be very much an acquired taste for certain types of film lovers. This is a movie which
dabbles in some fairly unseemly, even smarmy, content, but manages to do so without making the viewer feel like they
need an antiseptic bath afterwards. Part of what helps in this regard is Sono's reliance on a dreamlike ambience
where, even though you're absolutely convinced all of these strange occurrences are in fact happening, nothing ever
feels totally "real". It's a bizarre dissociative quality that actually helps put a little emotional distance between the
viewer and the story which in turn allows for some much needed "breathing space".
The film is obviously over the top in several key ways, but it's also surprisingly low key at times. The actors tend to be
introspective, almost quasi-Method at times, and that also helps to ground the film in what would otherwise be fairly
outlandish. All of this said, though, for those with a sincere religious faith (especially a Christian faith), and for those
who aren't especially prone to stomach ideas like child abuse easily, Love Exposure
is going to be a hard pill to
swallow. Sono never completely makes the case for how religious fanaticism sparks such a patently bizarre ripple effect
though two generations, and in fact that may not even be Sono's main emphasis in the film. What remains, then, is a
really odd, often extremely compelling, dreamscape that touches ever so slightly on the surreal.
Love Exposure Blu-ray, Video Quality
is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1.
Though I haven't seen the British Region "B" release of this film which my colleague Dr. Svet Atanasov reviewed here
, a cursory comparison of the
screenshots supports my theory that this is most likely not the same transfer. This transfer, while generally adequately
sharp and decently detailed, seems a good deal more washed out than the British release, with less fulsome flesh tones
and just a generally less robust level of saturation. This transfer also seems just slightly softer in comparison as well.
While contrast between the two releases appears similar, the Olive release, perhaps by dint of its less robust saturation,
doesn't look like it pops quite as well in the film's darker sequences. On the other hand, it must also be said there appears
to be more
overall brightness in the Olive release, which makes some of the shadow detail clearer and the daytime scenes pop quite
nicely. All of this said, I have never seen Love
theatrically and so cannot offer a valid opinion on which transfer better reproduces the original film
appearance. What this is probably going to boil down to for most consumers is, obviously first depending on if they have a
multi-region player, whether they prefer a somewhat darker and more saturated appearance or the lighter, less contrasty
appearance of this transfer.