Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Antiporno (5 Stars)

"This is the fifth time I have worked with Sion Sono. I have been lucky to work with him so often. This time my feeling was such that I could commit double suicide with him. I really could commit myself in such a way that I could die happy today". (Ami Tomite, 2016).

A lot of actors have directors that they love and respect, and they try to be in as many of their films as possible. One such relationship is between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorcese. But has anyone ever spoken so extremely of her feelings for a director as Ami Tomite?

Ami's fascination with Sion Sono began when she was still at school. She saw the film "Suicide Club" and recognised it as something special. She said she wanted to star in his films, even though she was far from becoming an actress. At 15 she joined the Japanese super-group AKB48, but she was fired after six months. Singing wasn't for her. Then she became a model. In parallel she joined a theatre company. Her dream was still to appear in a Sion Sono film. She visited a presentation where he was speaking. She slipped a hand-written note into his hand with her name and phone number, telling him she was an actress. After that she heard nothing for two years. Then suddenly he rang her and said he wanted to meet her. He invited her to the set of "Shinjuku Swan", which he was filming at the time. He gave her a small part. She says it was a speaking role, but the part was so small that she didn't make it into the film's credits. I'll have to look out for her the next time I watch "Shinjuku Swan".

From then on it was upwards all the way. She had a big role in "Tag", an even bigger role in "Virgin Psychics" and finally the lead role in "Antiporno". She's reached the first big goal of her career at the tender age of 21. Next she wants to appear in a film directed by Lars von Trier. I wish her success.

In the film Ami Tomite plays Kyoko, a young artist and author of erotic novels. She has a unique style. First she paints pictures of the characters. Then she writes the book. At the book's premiere she also shows the photos. Kyoko is a very unpleasant person. She humiliates her personal assistant Noriko, first verbally then physically. Kyoko makes Noriko crawl on the floor and bark like a dog. A team of photographers (all women) arrives, and they join in the humiliation, degrading Noriko as much as they can.

At this point in the film I was disgusted. I was asking myself how a director of Sion Sono's brilliance could be responsible for such garbage. I shouldn't have worried. At the 30 minute point everything changed. A director shouted "Cut!" Everything that had happened so far was just a film.

When the actors are no longer in character the personalities change. Noriko is a veteran actress. Kyoko is a teenage girl in her first film. Noriko despises Kyoko for having the lead role and hits her. The other actresses also hit her, and the all-male film crew sit laughing. The roles are reversed. Now Noriko makes Kyoko crawl on the floor and bark like a dog.

Then it's the next day. It starts the same as the previous day. Kyoko is lying naked in her bed. The door knocks. It's her personal assistant Noriko again. She reads the schedule, and it's the same as her schedule the day before. The conversation continues with the same abusive talk as the day before. Then Kyoko stops and says she doesn't want to do it. She doesn't want to continue with the film. "What film?" Noriko asks. Kyoko points to the wall and says that there's a film crew, but there isn't. It's all really happening.

Or is it?

From this point on it's unclear what's happening and what isn't. In every single scene we have to ask ourselves if it's real, imagination or supernatural occurrences. The decision we make changes the plot. To be honest, it doesn't really matter what's true and what isn't. Sion Sono doesn't want to give the viewer a direct answer. He has a message that he wants to put across, and as long as we understand the message we can think whatever we want about the film itself.

Sion Sono doesn't like pornography, because the porn industry is controlled by men and subjugates women. He's talking about the Japanese porn industry, but it applies to the rest of the world.

This film was made as part of the official Nikkatsu Roman Porno Reboot. From 1971 to 1988 the company Nikkatsu made a series of 718 soft porn films. Then the company went bankrupt. Now Nikkatsu wants to begin again. To show that it will create high quality films it asked Japan's most renowned directors to contribute a film each to kick off the series. I don't know how many directors turned down the request, but five agreed, including Sion Sono and Hideo Nakata ("The Ring" and "Dark Water"). I'm surprised that Sion Sono accepted, considering that he's an outspoken critic of pornography, and I'm even more surprised that Nikkatsu accepted his submission when they saw it. It isn't a porno, it's an anti-porno.

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