Notable Cast: Ami Tomite, Mariko Tsutsui, Fujiko, Ami Fukada, Yuya Takayama, Dai Hasegawa
Just being entirely honest here, Sono has disappointed for the most part for the last several years since he decided to go on this whole spree of making movie after movie in rapid succession. Now he has always put out a lot of films, but they started to focus less on quality and depth and instead took a more popcorn entertainment route. Nothing is entirely wrong with that as some of his output such as Love and Peace and surely The Whispering Star (which I can't vouch for personally but most certainly seems to be a more artistic endeavor), but the director I've grown to adore has always seemed to have a lot to say, and well without a doubt that artistic and poetic side has come back, and in full force, with a vengeance. This is without out a doubt one of Sono's angriest films to date... Antiporno.
All set in one location, a tiny apartment that novelist Kyoko (Ami Tomite) reside in. She has written a novel based on her life, which is quite a difficult thing to see play out through later flashbacks, and is visited daily by her assistant Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui) with whom she has quite the sadistic relationship with. We experience her day to day life as she tries to combat her inner struggles and the desire to further herself artistically to move on to the next thing. The relationship she has with Noriko is quite dark but pays off to the overall theme of oppression and objectification of women in Japan. It explores these ideas through an intensely psychosexual story that plays out in a quick manner.
I wanted to go more into the plot to try and sell the film more to a wider range of audience, but giving more away than a plot synopsis would be to spoil, which even in the slightest with this film, would be a detriment to the overall experience. Things do throw you upside-down at some point and make you rethink everything you have watched, and it is brilliant. I think this film has the strongest punch of any Sono work since perhaps Cold Fish, a film that when I saw it originally years ago, completely took me by surprise. This is the excitement I once felt for Sono's works coming back through and with great strength. This is easily his finest film in the last five years, which may not sound like very long, but given the speed of his output, actually is quite some time.
Ami Tomite, whom I admittedly knew nothing about prior to this, even though she was in two films I'd seen beforehand (Love & Other Cults, TAG), but apparently she hails from the large idol supergroup, AKB48, which ties in to Japan Cuts overall this year, but I digress. On track again, she absolutely blew me away. The way that she carries herself and her range of expression and bringing just the right amount of zaniness required for a Sono picture, Tomite delivers a strong and confident lead performance and is one of the highlights of this year in cinema. I think her performance will garner quite the attention in the festival circuit for some time to come. She is absolutely wonderful and only adds to the director's powerful and strong vision.
Again, spoilers won't be had, but I can say that Antiporno has one of the greatest endings in recent memory. It seems to be an amalgamation of Sono's prior works and all of these elements bring the thought to some of the greatest moments of his works. The paint raining down on Kyoko that is seen through all of the promotional material, and poster for that matter, reminded me greatly of Himizu, and vibes of plenty of works of yesteryear came to mind, but it's nice as it is almost a look back to this collective work without ever really being too meta and/or self-indulging. The message overall is smartly delivered while blunt and over-the-top at the same time. It is confident in what it says and shows it as clearly as possible. Loud is an understatement, but it most certainly needs to be heard, and it definitely is.
Antiporno serves as a great reminder that Sono can still deliver on the thought provoking goods and really get your blood stirred up. For fans of the director who have been disappointed with his more recent output, do not fret, this is him at his absolute finest, and I hope to see more works in this vein coming out from the director, between his fun projects. He most certainly hasn't lost his edge and this is a wonderful sign that he has not run out of things to say and won't anytime soon.
Written by Josh Parmer