Monday, 4 January 2016

Tag (5 Stars)

Mitsuko is a young girl like any other Japanese schoolgirl. She's sitting on the bus on the way to school, writing poetry while the other girls are laughing and joking. She drops her pen. While she's bending down to pick it up an invisible force slices off the top of the bus, cutting all of her friends in half. Was it the wind? Was it something else? Whatever it was, Mitsuko is the only survivor. She runs along the road looking for help. She sees other girls who are walking or cycling to school being cut in half in front of her eyes.

Mitsuko runs to school, because she has nowhere else to go. But when she arrives all her friends are there. Everyone is alive. Was it all a bad dream? When she tells her friends about it they think she's crazy. Only Sur believes her, a girl who wears a goth collar under her school uniform. Sur says that the universe is made up of countless alternate realities, and maybe Mitsuko visited another one. The only way to jump from one reality to another is by doing something completely unexpected.

This has to be attempted. Mitsuko sees a pillow lying next to her school desk. She decides to act spontaneously. She picks up the pillow and throws it to another girl. There's an immediate reaction. The teacher pulls out a machine gun and slaughters all the girls in the room. Only Mitsuko survives. She runs out of the classroom, and the school is in a state of chaos. Throughout the school the teachers are gunning down the students, and only a handful have survived. Together they run away, but eventually only Mitsuko is left alive.

She runs back to the town and visits a police station. The police woman on duty treats her story as a joke. By this point in the film the viewer notices something strange. The town is busy, but there are no men. It's a world full of women. Strangely, the police woman insists on calling Mitsuko Keiko, and she says that she's due to get married. She gives Mitsuko a wedding dress and drives her to the church, where she finds her school friends, all alive and well, waiting to see her get married. Married to who? Is there one man at least?

Does this mad world make sense? Does the film make sense? Eventually Mitsuko finds out what's happening, and we find out with her. Other critics call "Tag" a neo-feminist classic, whatever that's supposed to mean. Beneath the madness, which we're used to in Sion Sono's films, there are serious commentaries on gender roles. I can't say more than that without giving the plot away. This is a brilliant film that you need to watch more than once.

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