Sion Sono made a porn film? Or did he?
Antiporno comes as part of Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno revival; a reboot of a critically and commercially successful adult film line from the sleazy 70s and 80s Japanese film industry. The one rule is simple: there has to be nudity/sex every 10 minutes, but apart from that, the auteur gets to do whatever the hell they want. In their heyday, this meant that Roman Porn films could be both commercially and critically successful, before eventually dying out with the advent of adult video. Sono’s addition is, thus, the real deal: low budget, shot on location on a tight schedule, and meeting the Nikkatsu criteria religiously. But that doesn’t mean that it’s an object to be taken at face value.
Sono’s characters inhabit a surreal, heightened world of garish colour and exaggerated lighting. The main room of Kyoko’s house is canary yellow, decked with matching pop artwork, and punctuated by dusty, misty light from the plethora of ventilation fans that line the walls. Adjacent to this is a blood-red bathroom, and the baby blue/ pristine white of the film set. From the get go, it’s clear that this is a Sion Sono piece of work, in that it feels like art as opposed to a narrative film. The deeply ingrained fakeness of the whole setup makes us question the very nature of filmmaking: what are we watching, what does the director intend for us to feel, and, most of all, what’s our moral culpability as voyeurs lapping up the sexual misadventures of an abused artist. Sono's framing, in general, highlights the absurdity with which adult film directors stage reality.
Sono has definite ideologies that he’s looking to explore, mainly about how free speech serves those who can afford to speak freely, whilst forcing those that cannot to look on in submissive acceptance. He’s a tad overzealous with this message: hammering it in 4 or 5 times over the course of the brief runtime, seemingly concerned over whether his audience will ‘get it’ or not. However, what emerges is a deeply interesting portrait of gender roles in Japan, combined with a feminist perspective. The disjointed, postmodern structure of Antiporno’s narrative, too, appears to indicate an exploration of voyeurism and filmmaking in a way that’s determined by the eye of the beholder.
All in all, Antiporno is an intensely brisk deconstruction of the porn industry in the guise of a porn film: a wolf in sheep’s clothing as you will. Flooded by an intense, nauseatingly primary colour scheme, and caked in style, it’s a film that’s sure to never leave its audience bored. However, the esoteric nature of the work, its insistence on shoving its point in viewers’ faces, and the lack of true eroticism may make this one a tough sell.
|Antiporno gets 4 stars!|