It's hard to summarize Love Exposure in a few words. Yu, the son of an uptight catholic priest (who became a priest after the untimely death of Yu's mother) slowly and painfully rebels against his father (and his own good nature) by committing increasingly sinful acts. Being rather good-natured but motivated to commit sin, he stops at the highest level of perversion he can reach : Stealthily taking pictures of women's panties. This leads him to meet Yoko, with whom he falls in love. In his quest to fulfil a promise to his departed mother, he becomes caught in a whirlwind of characters, from his father, to his father's new fling Saori, the mean-spirited gang leader chick Koike, the mysterious cult members of Church Zero, and Yoko, which despite being the woman of his dream, has a passionate hatred of all men.
The length of that movie almost led me to skip it, and what a mistake it would have been. Love Exposure touches pretty much every kind of love you can imagine : Parental love, religious love, romantic love, friendship, sibling love and so on. But instead of dealing with it in the usual western aseptic way, it takes the exact opposite path. With deception, rape, incest and abuse of many forms taking centre stage, Love Exposure plunges its hand in the vilest forms of them all. But from perfect ugliness, can perfect beauty emerge?
The treatment, as is often the case with Japanese cinema, goes from deadly serious to slapstick comedy to moments of pure spiritual awakening, this truly is a four hour roller-coaster ride of emotions. The execution is fantastic, the cast is perfect, the music is generally excellent (the use of Ravel's Bolero in the first act is rather appropriate for a movie that will go on for another three hours). I was either laughing, fighting tears, wincing, or sitting there with my jaw dropped practially the whole time.
As an indication of the power of this movie, one of the more beautifully erotic moment was met with a theater that was awe and silence-stricken rather than ready to scream "Yeah" or "Alright!" as is often the case with the Fantasia crowd (even in serious movies, unfortunately). Something worth noting, Love Exposure is completely nudity-free. A strange contrast from the subject matter.
The movie, however, isn't perfect. Although the first two hours just zoom by like an arrow, the remaining two have a few pacing issues, minutes here and there where points that were already made, clearly, are remade. Perhaps an iron fist with a perfect sense of timing could've trimmed this to a somewhat better 3 hours experience.
Still, you shouldn't let the length, or anything else really, stand between you and this movie. Through this four hour path of destruction, and reconstruction, at least a thing or two you hold sacred will be damaged.
For the subtitled trailer : Click here!