Thursday, March 8, 2018

In short: Love & Peace (2015)

Original title: ラブ&ピース

Warning: spoilers ahead, little turtle!

Leave it to Sion Sono’s year of six films (William Beaudine had nothing on the man, particularly since Sono’s films are always good to brilliant) to include a sort of family Christmas movie that manages to not just feature an alcoholic Santa living in the sewers with a bunch of talking and living toys and talking animals who were deserted by their owners, and an adorable giant turtle rampage, but also manages to have that fit nicely as part of a tale about a socially painful office worker (portrayed by Hiroki Hasegawa in modes reaching from physically painful to witness to hilarious to grotesque to unpleasant to actually sad) who becomes a rock star and the same sort of hypocritical arsehole he always hated. While the plot is outrageous and weird in a very Japanese style of weirdness, it also makes complete sense on a thematic and emotional level. This isn’t just a whacky thing to gawk at.

Also leave it to Sono to shoot this tale in a style that teeters on, jumps over and completely ignores the lines between camp, artistry and truthfulness, until it becomes a question of personal taste more than analysis what of the film, if anything, is meant ironically or directly. What I can say is that I found Hasegawa’s way from complete outsider through all stages of glittery rockstardom and its accompanying stages of being a horrible person at times sad, at times incredibly funny, and at times hair-raising. I absolutely admired how the film ends on a grown-up yet hopeful note that shows kindness instead of condemnation to its characters faults. My emotions concerning the other plotline, I can’t even begin to describe.

Because it seems to genuinely be meant as some sort of family movie, Love & Peace should actually be watchable as one. There are, however, many moments in the film that transcend the ironic clichés and seem genuine more because than despite of them, as well as some darker feelings and ideas you can generally expect not to find in your family films outside of Asia anymore, even the strange ones. There is, after all a reason why Santa lives in the sewers and drinks too much, and his whole plot line centers around a perpetual repetition of certain kinds of pain and suffering that might as well belong in a horror film (even though it of course isn’t openly played that way by the film).

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