Longer version of piece published by Sight & SoundÂ as part of coverage of the Cult programme at the London Film Festival 2015
This year’s cult programme included three Japanese cult directors, all of whom have, frankly, made better films than the ones here. Take Sion Sono, whose unruly, sui generis Love Exposure (2008) is both the cult film par excellence, while also, some way into its four hours, focused on a cult – and whose deliriously metacinematic Why Don’t You Play In Hell? (2013) and one-note musical Tokyo Tribe (2014) have featured in previous LFF cult programmes.
His latest, Love and Peace – one of seven (!) features that the writer/director has made in 2015 alone – tells the story of dull, bullied salaryman Ryoichi (Hiroki Hasegawa), whose yearnings for an unfulfilled past as a punk rocker are magically granted by a pet turtle that he purchases and then throws away – its name ‘Pikadon’, a Japanese term for the atomic blasts of 1945, pointing to a different kind of disrupted history, as well as foreshadowing the city-scale destruction to come. For even as the path to Ryuichi’s dreams proves to be paved with compromise and corruption, Sono combines elements from Tim Burton, A Clockwork Orange (1971), Toy Story (1995) and the tokusatsu genre to create a fantasy film that never quite lives up to its own vision. Love and Peace almost feels like a parodic embodiment of the ‘crazy Japanese’ payload that Westerners like to drop on the nation – but it is too cute, too broad, and too relentlessly, self-consciously quirky to make much real impact on the viewer (or at least on this viewer).