Why Don’t You Play In Hell? (2013) – Sion Sono

Why-dont-you-play-in-hell-poster-2

I am rallying behind this film and this filmmaker. I have seen ‘Hazard’ and I was so impressed because it seemed like the work of a young filmmaker, eager to impress, and sincere in his excess. Excess is the keyword. Then I saw the little known ‘Bad Film’ which he shot over 13 years ago, but has only been released recently in some film festivals. ‘Bad Film’ is a three hour low-budget epic about yakuza gangs battling it out. It has the same excess and youthful energy of Hazard, only amplified. And I am beginning to notice a pattern. It seems like he has a formula that he uses and which works very well.

This formula, is proper to film, and it is a reduction, while also being musical. Scenes are carried by two tones: one of excessive energy in the situation, the editing, the acting, and the action–and the second: one of invariably comic sadness and melancholia–two opposite forces. Once you become familiar with this rhythm, you are able to see how far he can go within those two extremes.

The plot of this film is based around a tv advertisement jingle about brushing your teeth. There is a group of teenagers who are obsessed with filming and they call themselves the Fuck Bombers. They hope one day to make a real film and it takes them ten years until they finally land a deal that will allow them to shoot a real (unstaged) bloodshed war between two Yakuza gangs.

At the center of it all, apart from the toothbrush jingle, is a young actress, the girl who sang the toothbrush jingle as a child, now a fully grown sexually charged actress, looking for a role where she can ‘be sexy’, ‘kick ass’ and ‘act like a badass’.

Of course this sounds like the bedroom fantasies of a teenage film nerd. What makes it so good is that it is executed with so much talent and craft that it is almost unbelievable that it is not amateurish. How could so much effort go into what at first sight appears to be silly juvenile ideas?

The answer is in the rhythm of the eye. The editing, the coverage. The camera itself is frantic. Sequences pile joke upon joke to the point that the film reaches beyond the screen. You are not merely watching the frame, rather, the screen is a stream that is directly talking to you–with inflections and elaborations. The jokes are not always in the images either, they are in the attitudes, and the exaggerated emotions.

I wish I could pinpoint where this particular stance comes from. It is not like the general idea we have of comedy, where we are supposed to rally behind this consensus idea of something that is funny. The funny here is more personal. In fact, most of the jokes come from the insecurities felt by the characters.  With over 10 principal characters, each getting their share of screen time, the whole thing feels like a comic book, or an animated cartoon series.

So there is the joke of violence, cinematic blood splatter violence. There is the joke of sexual attraction and seduction. And there is the joke of filming. Cinema, sex, and violence. Is it possible to make a movie about those things, and still show personality, and vision? Yes, because these are basic human impulses. They carry a force that is beyond words.

And this seems to be the idea behind everything. To not use words to describe spontaneous feelings. To just let the natural electricity of excitement inhabit us. To limit our vocabulary to things like ‘cool’,  ‘badass’, or ‘kick ass’, or ‘best film’, and pray to the ‘Movie God’ so that we may experience a ‘masterpiece’. This is the dialog that comes out of the mouth of these characters. They are so innocent and naive, which makes them pure and dignified. Too much language is a mistake. Reduction is good. It is surprising how deeply simple language can reach us. And how dense this apparent lightness can be.

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Links:

Trailer

My comment on Sion Sono’s ‘Hazard’

More info about Sion Sono

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Categories: Notes

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