Saturday, 19 September 2015

Why don't you play in Hell (5 Stars)

This is a very personal film for the Japanese director Sion Sono. The early parts of the film are auto-biographical. When he was a teenager he formed a group of amateur film makers around himself. They called themselves the Fuck Bombers. They shot 8mm films and dreamt of becoming big film makers one day, as long as they didn't have to compromise their ideals of being different and original. Sion Sono shot scenes of a friend dressed up as Bruce Lee in a playground, resulting in the children laughing at him and calling him an idiot. But that didn't stop him. He carried on making films, and now, 30 years later, he's one of Japan's most famous film directors. Another successful director to emerge from the Fuck Bombers is Noboru Iguchi, director of films like "Machine Girl" and "Robo Geisha".

The film begins with a popular toothpaste commercial in which a 10-year-old girl sings a catchy pop song. Unknown to the general public the girl, Mitsuko, is the daughter of a gang boss called Muto. A rival gang attempts to assassinate Muto, but only his wife is at home, who manages to kill the attackers. She's sentenced to prison for 10 years.

During this time Mitsuko continues to make television commercials. She wants to make a feature film, but nobody will hire her, because by this time her family connections are known. Shortly before his wife's release from prison Muto promises her that he will make a film starring their daughter. Through a series of coincidences he meets Hirata, the leader of the Fuck Bombers, and a film is planned. The Muto gang is about to attack the Ikegami gang, so Hirata suggests that he films the raid, with Mitsuko leading the attack. If people really die it will make the film more realistic.

The result is a bloodbath rarely seen in films. The deaths come too fast for the bodies to be counted. All the time Hirata, who obviously represents Sion Sono himself, dances through the mayhem, encouraging the gang members to put on the best possible performance for the cameras. After all, that's what directors do. They direct.

I've told my readers so often that Sion Sono is a genius that they must be getting fed up of hearing it. But it's true. This film is proof of it. It contains more comedy elements than his other films, but it has the same madness.

One last thing: other reviewers have compared "Why don't you play in Hell" to "Kill Bill". Sion Sono discusses this in an interview included on the DVD. He disagrees with the comparison with "Kill Bill". He says that the main influence is Bruce Lee's films, especially "Fist of Fury" and "Game of Death".

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