Movie review: ‘Love Exposure’


There is no easy way to sum up “Love Exposure,” Japanese filmmaker Shion Sono’s not quite four-hour opus that premiered in 2008 but is only now getting its first commercial run in America.

Oddly heartfelt while sometimes arch or seemingly inept, the film explores love, religion, family, the transformative power of teenage erections and the higher purpose of clandestine up-skirt photos -- it might be too obvious to say there is no other film quite like “Love Exposure,” even if at times it can feel like watching every movie ever all at once. The film’s maximalist storytelling, both expansive and precise, snatching specific emotions from its torrid swirl, is best exemplified by the fact that the title card doesn’t appear until an hour in.

A teenage boy finally discovers romantic fulfillment when he meets a girl of whom he has long had visions, but the two are pulled apart by the trickster machinations of a cult that ensnares their families. In one of his boldest moves, Sono sometimes shifts the perspective of who is telling the story, allowing secondary characters an unexpected depth and urgency and giving the film a literary sweep.


Would the film be easier to take in a more condensed form? Of course it would, but then it wouldn’t be the singularly overwhelming oddity that it is. It’s difficult to call it anything like a masterpiece, but a one-of-a-kind experience “Love Exposure” most certainly is.

-- Mark Olsen

“Love Exposure.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 3 hours, 57 minutes. At the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los Angeles.