Antiporno

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Sion Sono

Starring

Ami Tomite Asami Mariko Tsutsui

Anticipation.

A new ‘roman porno’ movie from Japanese mad man Sono Sion.

Enjoyment.

Heavy going, but rich with ingenuity. And there’s intellectual death beyond the screaming.

In Retrospect.

Not one of the director’s finest, but amazing in its own unique, erotic and alienating way.

Sono Sion deconstructs power relationships on a porn movie set in this colourful, cacophonous miniature.

You’d be hard pressed to peg Antiporno as top tier Sion Sono, but offers yet more proof (were it needed) that here is an artist for whom moviemaking is like a reflex reaction. And often, it’s a highly obscene reflex reaction. This new work from the Japanese trash maestro is a short, sharp and shrill examination of power dynamics on the set of an erotic movie, and was made as part of Nikkatsu Studio’s anniversary celebration of their pioneering ‘roman porno’ sub-strand.

Ami Tomite plays Kyoko, a banshee in Day-glo chiffon who springs around her pop art apartment screaming, swearing, painting and dry heaving. She has three giant canvases propped up against the canary yellow walls, and an open bathroom in blood red off the side. Creamy light streams in through extractor fans set into the wall, creating a dazzling visual effect while adding depth and a surreal sense of mystery to the space. Lamps shimmer in the foreground, and the camera slides back and forth across the room, attempting to keep the sprightly Kyoko in its sights.

Soon, her older assistant, Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui) arrives at the door, and Kyoko proceeds to bellow at her, abuse her, eventually attaching a leash to her neck and forcing her to yap like a mutt. She demands that Norkio read out the daily schedule while licking her legs. When all this sexual humiliation eventually comes to a head, a director suddenly shouts cut, the fourth wall is broken and Kyoko’s fantasy is instantly shattered.

She is instantly transformed from abuser to abusee, as everyone involved on the production turns on her. It’s a bracing and brilliant moment, using the iconography of sex and power to cut through cinema’s ability to completely upend power relationships. Being in a movie is like being a queen for a day – and then when the camera stops rolling, you right back to the gutter.

Sono rolls in a bit of backstory about Kyoko’s younger sister, some commentary on the venality of art world blaggers and the absurd notion of actually simulating sexual pleasure on screen, all the while making sure that the tone needle always remains at fever pitch or above. Even at 74 minutes, it’s a tough film to stomach, and it helps if, as a viewer, you harbour a special predilection for wall-to-wall screaming. But the way in which Sono just fills every inch of the frame with garish, throwaway ideas is invigorating in itself.

Antiporno screens at ICA London from Friday 24 November, released by MUBI.

Published 21 Nov 2017

Tags: Sion Sono

Anticipation.

A new ‘roman porno’ movie from Japanese mad man Sono Sion.

Enjoyment.

Heavy going, but rich with ingenuity. And there’s intellectual death beyond the screaming.

In Retrospect.

Not one of the director’s finest, but amazing in its own unique, erotic and alienating way.

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