Love Exposure

There are weird movies, there are really weird movies, and then there's Love Exposure, a four-hour epic about Catholic guilt, strange sex, cross-dressing, religious mania, the art of perverted photography, and above all else, the unpredictable nature of love. It drags at times, it looks a little on the cheap side (this is an indie movie from Japan, after...read more

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Reviewed by Jack Rodgers
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There are weird movies, there are really weird movies, and then there's Love Exposure, a four-hour epic about Catholic guilt, strange sex, cross-dressing, religious mania, the art of perverted photography, and above all else, the unpredictable nature of love. It drags at times, it looks a little on the cheap side (this is an indie movie from Japan, after all) and the ending fails to wrap up the proceeding 237 minutes in a thematically coherent fashion, but for lovers of arthouse cinema, this is the kind of must-see film that will invade your dreams for weeks afterwards.

The film's plot requires a lot of setup: so much so, in fact, that the movie's opening credits don't appear until about an hour into the running time. Yu Tsunoda (Takahiro Nishijima) is a Japanese teenager from a Christian family dealing with the sudden death of his mother, whose last words to him were instructions to marry a woman who reminds him of the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile, Yu's father (Atsuro Watabe) decides to bury his grief over his wife's death by becoming a Catholic priest, resulting in him being more and more militant about insisting that Yu confess his sins in church. The only problem is that Yu doesn't have any sins -- he's as mild-mannered and innocuous as they come, but his father insists that he must be doing something wrong, so Yu decides to make his father happy by joining a group of local troublemakers who spend their days taking upskirt photos of unsuspecting women (in one of the film's many eccentric touches, this pastime is imagined as a sort of martial art involving acrobatic maneuvers to take the photos without getting caught).

The first act of Love Exposure chronicles Yu's misadventures as the world's most wholesome pervert, and it only gets stranger from there, as both Yu and his father embark on unlikely love affairs -- Yu falls for a fiery, man-hating feminist named Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima), whom he meets while dressed as a woman on a dare from his friends, while his father strikes up a relationship with an emotionally unstable parishioner (Makiko Watanabe) who turns out to be Yoko's stepmother. Pretty soon all of them are living under one roof, and then Yu and his father are targeted by a sinister cult looking to convert them in order to improve their credibility and then...

Suffice it to say, this review would end up being three times as long if it had to provide a complete synopsis. And regardless, the brilliance of Love Exposure isn't found in the fact that the plot makes sense in the end (it doesn't), but in the way it ricochets from one scene to the next, constantly bursting with new ideas and refusing to settle on just one emotional tone. A scene in a restaurant in which Yu tries to win over Yoko by switching back and forth between himself and his cross-dressing female alter ego "Miss Scorpion" feels like something out of a million corny sitcoms, while a flashback in which a cult leader (Sakura Ando) gets revenge on her abusive father may turn the stomach of even the most desensitized connoisseur of ultraviolence. Yu's life as a pornographer is played for laughs, but Love Exposure's views on love and religion are treated seriously, as the film views both as potentially uplifting but easily corrupted. In particular, Yoko's devout Christian faith is contrasted with the spiritual emptiness of the film's adults, who jump from one religion to the next hoping to find satisfaction, but ultimately end up in a deprogramming group (which is depicted as just one more creed for them to obsess over). Profane and spiritual, disturbing and warmhearted, perverted and romantic, Love Exposure is a fascinating gem from the outer edges of extreme Asian cinema.

Cast & Details

  • Released: 2008
  • Review: There are weird movies, there are really weird movies, and then there's Love Exposure, a four-hour epic about Catholic guilt, strange sex, cross-dressing, religious mania, the art of perverted photography, and above all else, the unpredictable nature of lo… (more)

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