Antiporno (2017; Sion Sono)
By Daniel Barnes
More electrifying excess from Sono (Tokyo Tribe), this time a collaboration with Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest major film studio.
Antiporno is part of a series of feature-length throwbacks to Nikkatsu’s 1970s “Roman Porno” output. In these films, directors received total artistic freedom, as long as they met their quota of nude scenes. Few directors merge Starburst-colored exploitation and passionate manifesto quite like Sono, and so he rips through the genre like a T-Rex in a tea shop. Sono subverts the expectations of pornography to make a garishly beautiful feminist statement about the submissive role of women in Japanese society.
A fearless Ami Tomite stars as Kyoko, a sexually ravenous multimedia artist promoting her latest work to amoral media sycophants. Meanwhile, Kyoko mercilessly abuses her servile assistant, played by the chameleonic Mariko Tsutsui (even better here than in Harmonium). The entire film takes place inside of Kyoko’s colorful apartment, but just when it feels like Sono’s experiment has run out of steam, the fourth wall opens up and the power dynamics become irreparably scrambled.
In the alternate timeline where film critics don’t act like border patrol guards for pseudo-woke mainstream culture, Antiporno is racking up Best Foreign Film awards and Tomite and Tsutsui are dark horse Oscar contenders, while “topical” vomit like In the Fade barely gets acknowledged.