Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Be determined: Wear a kimono." Sion Sono's back with WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL?

What could there possibly be in common among a pair of dueling Yakuza gangs, a popular toothpaste commercial, budding filmmakers (including the new Bruce Lee), young kids in love and a wronged wife now in prison for wiping out nearly the entire membership of one of those gangs? A movie, of course! Two of them, actually: one is the film within the film, which those budding movie-makers desperately want to create; the other is the movie under consideration here: Sion Sono's latest -- the amazing, movie-loving, crazy, riotously funny, looney-tuneish and eventually about as bloody and gory as anything you've encountered in a long while, WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL?

Sion Sono (being naughty, at left) is the fellow who has given us some really transgressive, weird and shudder-producing movies that go places that no one else's films do: Suicide Club, Cold Fish, Love Exposure, to name but three that are very much worth seeing. Yet here, in this new one, Sono seems to be having such a delightful and delighted time of it that wise-ass humor, coupled to the beyond-anything love of movies, combines to make this one of the most fun films he's ever overseen. And, yes, he still manages to toss in some of the most so-gory-they're-funny special effects (that arise perfectly from the bizarre situations at hand) so that his movie will still raise eyebrows and blood pressure.

From its opening -- which combines that toothpaste commerical sung by a too-cute-for-words little girl to the introduction of our budding filmaker's crew to the adulterous Yakuza (above) and his born-for-action wife -- to the sudden moment when we get... the red floor, you'll know that this, my friends, is like no other floor you've seen in cinema: a keeper, for sure.

Then it's ten years later, but just about everything's the same, except for age. Our little toothpaste tyke is now a va-voomly sexy teenager (above, center), our budding filmmakers are still budding, and the obsession for the toothpaste girl by one of the Yakuza has grown to whopping proportions. This guy (below, right) is rather sweet but not too bright and very easily influenced. (The "determined/kimono" phrase in the headline is all due to his somewhat addled brain.)

The plot strands planted in the beginning all come to wonderful fruition as the story continues, becoming soon enough a one-of-a-kind love letter to the movies. But being from Sono, this love letter also offers severed limbs, spraying blood and flying heads (and oodles of movie references).

The performances are as wonderfuly over-the-top as is the rest of the undertaking. Literally every actor stands out as special, as the plot gyrations become funnier and more bizarre. (When you're having this much fun, it's sort of difficult to be truly transgressive, I think.)

Sono's point must be, among other things, how filmmakers will do fucking anything to get their movie made, which sort of goes with the "artistic" and maybe "commercial" and certainly "juvenile" temperament. (Shades of the recent Midnight Rider situation may come to mind.)

Though the movie seems to start rather slowly (particularly if you're waiting for those heavy-duty Sion transgressions), hold on, because soon enough you'll be so taken with the way the filmmaker brings all his threads together that you won't mind at all.

Why Don't You Play in Hell?, the perfect title for a romp like this, runs a slightly too long 121 minutes (once he gets started, Sono can't resist piling it on) and is being released via Drafthouse Films. It hits theaters this Friday, November 7 -- here in NYC at the IFC Center and in Austin at the Drafthouse South Lamar. (The IFC Center does not appear to be giving it very many showings, however, so do check the schedule before rushing off to see it.) In the weeks to come it will open in another nine cities (but not L.A.? No fair! This one should play at the Arena Cinema). Click here then scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities & theaters.

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