Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Strange Circus (Sion Sono, 2005)

If the trailer for Tokyo Gore Police freaked you out, then Strange Circus certainly isn't for you. The movie begins as a story about a young girl who is forced into a sexual relationship with her father, until the entire family dissolves. In the meantime, she fantasizes about a circus atmosphere where she's accepted in her death.

Then the plot twists, and it's revealed that the first story is actually being written by popular Japanese author Mitsuko, who is flanked by syncophantic editors and one new guy, who seems un affected by her charms. From there, the movie takes you places you thought you'd never go, both plot-wise and visually. Although topics like child abuse (sexual and physical), murder, incest, self-mutilation, mutilation of others, disembowlement, and more, it's much more than it seems.

At its core, I believe Strange Circus is a film about the strange relationship that exists almost universally between mothers and daughters. Mitsuko, through narration, often equates herself with her mother, especially when she talks about how she's been waiting to be executed since she was born, or was she born on the executioner's slate. The relationship between Mitsuko and her mother is an eternally complicated one, including sexual jealousy and even abuse when the father begins sleeping with both females. Of course, most mothers and daughters never take their natural rivalry this far, but there are naturally twinges of competition in most relationships that close.

Sion Sono takes these existential themes and wraps them in a Japanese shock exterior. Many people who've seen it will say that Strange Circus is the most disturbing film they've ever seen, and I can't really argue with that. But much like other shock auteur Takashi Miike, this is shock with a purpose. If you can stomach it, Sono's Strange Circus is a shocking, thought-provoking watch. But it's definitely not for everyone, or even most.


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