Valeofruin’s review published on Letterboxd :
Rewatched this film 3 times now and it has truly affirmed itself as my favorite; withstanding the test of time!
Why? For starters this movie is 6 or 4 (depending on the cut) HOURS long and despite this can be watched multiple times! Each rewatch is more productive than the last as the eyes begin to move away from the subtitles and toward the films visual elements! It is bizarre, cheesy, offensive but somehow it is never ending once unbearably boring.
The film is absolutely unique and original in more ways than can be described here without writing a book. Despite coming together and flowing as a seemless narrative, a watchful eye can pick up subtle changes in the technical aspects here. You could even say that the film is broken up into 4 or 5 distinctive “parts” each of which varies in editing, sound and cinematography to such a degree that one would swear they were made by different people entirely! Yet the transitions between these parts is so subtle that you probably didn’t even notice at first glance!
It is overtly aware of the potential for self implosion. It is therefore carefully designed by diversifying its approach and structuring its story in such a way that the audience remains engaged and unwilling to turn it off.
Furthermore, the film uses its 6 hour run time to cover a baffling range of profoundly complex themes ranging from religious morality to family. It features a literal first time actor as its lead character. This was due in part to the reality that finding talent for this film was challenging. Especially given what was described by Actor Atsuro Watabe as “absolutely” the “longest script I have ever seen”.
It was filmed on a low budget in just 1 months time! This absolutely shocking and grueling process would leave the actors and director exhausted beyond comprehension; barely able to remain awake for interviews. Injuries were sustained, lasting friendships forged and lessons learned.
In short, Love Exposure was a triumph both on set and on screen!
From here a SPOILER plot summary which may explain why people love this seemingly rediculous movie about upskirt photography!
There are 3 characters: Yu (Protag), Koike (Antag) and Yoko (support)
Yu is a completely innocent and sheltered Catholic teen who lives a happy life free of sin! Yus mother unfortunately dies but tells Yu to save himself for his true love. After her death his father becomes deeply religious and chooses to become a catholic priest. His vows as a priest are challenged when a batshit crazy woman (Yokos Mom) enters their life. Eventually this woman gets bored and leaves; causing Yus father to become detached from him.
The only time Yu is able to feel any sort of emotional bond with his father is during confession. Not only does the act of sinning elicit a reaction from his father but also provides the closest thing to mentorship in his religious guidance.
Encouraged by this Yu hooks up with a small group of hoodlums (who are fascinated by his family story). On the advice of one such hoodlum Yu begins committing sins of a sexual nature. This path most assuredly leads to increasingly violent confessions and ultimate expulsion from the church after it is revealed that he has begun taking non-consensual “peek a panty” photographs of unsuspecting girls.
With nowhere to go and no other friends to turn to Yu embarks on a journey with his hoodlum friends to find his true love among the very same crowds of girls whom he so implicitly violated with his photography. The result of this (stable relationship) he hopes may finally be something his father will acknowledge in earnest and accept him once more!
Unfortunately these plans are threatened when Yu is caught red handed photographing the wrong pair of panties! The owner of these particular panties being a girl by the name of Koike.
Koike was a troubled youth who grew up with separated parents, ultimately winding up in the custody of her father. It was thanks to this situation that she endured years of painfully explicit physical and sexual abuse by her fathers hand; forced to “pray for a soul” by repeating the phrase, “come in to me”, as she was violently beaten/raped.
After one such session results in the death of her pet bird (sole companion) Koike explodes on a secret admirer at school, stabbing him with a box cutter. This event results in her expulsion and juvenile incarceration. For Koike, the ultimate culmulative effect of this trauma leads her toward a powerful distrust of the government, legal system and society at large. All of whom have failed her.
Upon being released from prison her first order of business is the murder of her father; which she is able to frame as an accident. It is shortly after this that she meets the enigmatic “Zero”, a self proclaimed prophet behind a dangerous religious cult. Forming a close bond with “Zero” and quickly climbing up the ranks to become the Cults leader in the city of Tokyo. Effectively making her the second in command.
At the time of Yu’s fated peek a panty encounter; Koike is actively involved in enterprises that include Cocaine Trafficking, Extortion, Fraud, Kidnapping, Industrial Pornography and of course... Murder.
Koike initially appears to forgive Yu after he explains to her that the photography was his “original sin”; a statement which appeals to Koikes zealous and superstitious mentality. She believes that the term “original sin” is one that describes souls of pure good (Yu) and those of pure evil (herself). This causes her to abandon her original intention of simply beating him within an inch of his life and instead causes her to covertly observe/ spy on him and those close to him. Ultimately plotting to demoralize/corrupt him as she was demoralized by the world; slowly inching her way into his life. Sadistically turning others against him and seeking to destroy literally every ounce of hope he had at discovering true happiness in life.
Which brings us to Yoko, a rebellious teenage girl who, like Koike experiences trauma as the result of profound physical, verbal and sexual abuse by her father. She runs away with one of her fathers outgoing mistresses where she ultimately finds herself in Tokyo, living under the same roof as Yu.
They meet after Yu loses a bet that involves cross dressing and kissing s random girl. That random girl would ultimately be Yoko, the companion of the very same woman who is about to return to his father and convince him to accept Yu back in to their home. Yu experiences love at first sight yet, as a consequence of his disguise Yoko is unaware of his identity. In order to avoid the awkward scenario of revealing the truth to his newfound housemate Yu attempts to perpetuate the deception, meeting Yoko in disguise and developing a romantic relationship with her in a double life.
These events however breed the perfect conditions for Koike (whom by now Yu has surely forgotten) to finally exact revenge on her perverse assailant. She assumes the persona of Yus double existence, not only competing to steal the girl of his dreams but inching her way into his home/family dynamic.
As Koikes presence begins to loom over more and more elements of Yus personal life; things begin to spiral into a HIGHLY dark, shocking and disturbing trajectory. A panicked free fall envelops Yu as the sheer malevolence and extent of Koikes intentions unfolds before him.
Yu is left at rock bottom and must begin a painful climb towards redemption in order to save the one he loves.
The final half of Love Exposure is something that treats us to some of the darkest and most traumatic scenes in cinematic history. We are encapsulated in a suffocatingly bleak and melancholic atmosphere that can only be broken by the titular and central theme of this movie...
“ For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Chorintheans 13