“I know I exist, but not today.”

 

Nikkatsu, the studio behind Sion Sono’s Cold Fish and Guilty of Romance as well as host of other films, recently commissioned the Roman Porno Reboot Project to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the ‘Roman Porno’ pink films it famously produced in the ’70s and ’80s. Consisting of five short features from five different Japanese directors, to be released in mainstream Japanese cinemas between now and 2017, the project is an attempt by the studio to revive that genre’s function as a sandbox for playful experimentation in filmmaking with the aim of attaining new forms of cinematic expression.

 

In the past, directors working within the genre talked about having complete artistic freedom as long as they had the requisite nudity and this label has a very special place in the history of Japanese cinema. Not just for breaking new formalistic ground, not just for smashing nudity and sex boundaries, not just as a breeding ground for new raw talent, nor as titillation for middle aged western men — these films were commercially successful, the holy grail of any film studio.

 

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“Alone and independent are completely different.”

 

It is very appropriate then that Sion Sono would be invited as one of the many director’s who would interpret the new 21st century brief. As an artist and filmmaker, he has been pushing the boundaries for decades and is almost guaranteed to come up with something that’s off the wall and outlandish but he also has a background in pink films himself cutting his early filmmaking teeth in that genre.

 

Enter Anti-Porno, Sono’s latest that’s just set in a singular room. But don’t let the one location put you off, if anything some of its other aspects might be more offending. Could it be the sadistic pleasure of humiliation? Or the public sex, indoors and out? Maybe bodily fluids offend? Blood? Vomit? Piss? Or that whole ‘film within a film’ device? If these don’t do it then a philosophising rant on mastering freedom of speech or other such topics of boredom could do it for you. For a feature it’s short, roughly an hour long, but it’s got ’em all.

 

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“I’m a virgin but I’m a whore.”

 

We are introduced to Kyoko, an author/artist/actor breaking new ground in her methodologies of writing novels. She is adored, she is out of control and she’s falling to pieces. Set in her surreal apartment, dressed in her technicolour clothes and undressed in her sumptuous nakedness, Kyoko holds court to the queens and dames of the fashionista media. Editors fawn over her, asking banal questions and photographers snap her every mood whilst her dead sister plays piano in the corner, channeling her soul from heaven. Meanwhile, in another corner of the apartment, her PA, under Kyoko’s orders, willingly submits to a photographer’s assistant.

 

With glee and abandon, she flits around the space; a trouble free nymph before the onset of a ferocious banshee assault that screeches the room to decorum. Pleasure from humiliation, pleasure from sadism. Sono stylises everything, moving right on from The Whispering Star but this feels completely different. There are themes and moments that harken on his past work, like the glorious return of the pink paint bombs from Guilty of Romance or the signature flash of panties from, well, any of his films really, or the symbolic minimalism from The Whispering Star.

 

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“No woman in this nation can master freedom of speech.”

 

And it’s all, oh so surreal. Not surreal in a bizarre way, though it indeed is also that in spades, nor is it surreal in that Dali visual way (although this can be seen). This is surreal in the way that dreams and reality collide and blend seamlessly, yet Sono doesn’t merely commit to this for sake of spectacle or showmanship. Rather, this intersection where madness directs the traffic and insanity becomes your best friend is the only place to rinse these themes and to reveal their real sheen, their startling simplicity and their ecstatic truth. Spatial and temporal reality are constantly bent and mixed in order to get deeper. But that would then make this film one with a message… Surely that might put you off?