TAD Review: Sion Sono’s double douse of delirium

Tag, which played Toronto After Dark on Thursday night as the first salvo of a Sion Sono double bill, opens with a bus full of giggling schoolgirls in Sailor Moon uniforms having a pillow fight. One girl, Mitsuko (Reina Triendl), is writing poetry when her pen is knocked out of her hand. While she bends down to retrieve it an invisible force, a malevolent wind, rips off the top half of the bus—and the top half of all her classmates, turning them into skirted blood fountains. Escaping the wreckage, Mitsuko runs screaming down a country road littered with fresh torsos.

While the rest of the movie never quite reaches the grotesque heights of this deliriously grizzly start, Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono (Tokyo Tribe) certainly gives it a shot. The result is a bizarrely idiosyncratic gorehouse fever dream in which you’re never quite sure if what you’re seeing is real or fantasy, dream or delusion.

Some actors play more than one character, some characters are played by more than one actor. Characters are decapitated or shot or eaten by alligators in one scene only to reappear in another. A bride walks down the aisle carrying a broken wine bottle for a bouquet, while her groom waits in a coffin at the altar. A man with a pig head—or is it a pig with a man body—runs a marathon while karate kicking the other competitors. Classrooms full of children are mowed down with giant machine guns (just what is with Japan’s obsession with the on-screen killing school children?). And there’s a disturbing number of upskirt shots.

“Life is surreal. Don’t let it consume you,” says one school girl, nicknamed appropriately enough, “Sur.” And that pretty much says all there is to say.

It wasn’t until after I’d watched the movie, and discovered that it’s based on the Yusuke Yamada novel Real Onigokko, which is about people with the same surname being attacked by evil forces, that Tag made even a lick of sense.

Ask me if Tag is a good movie and I can only reply, “It’s a Sion Sono movie.”

 

Round 2 of the Sono double feature was Love & Peace, which is just as bizarre as Tag, but in a decidedly kid-friendly—and supremely more fun—way.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot except to say that it’s a loving bromance between a man and his pet turtle, one of whom dreams of being a rock star, the other a kaiju. (I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.) By the time the pair have a falling out, and the turtle gets flushed down the toilet and ends up in Lost & Found Heaven, which is kind of like Sono’s version of the Island of Misfit Toys, the train has definitely left eh station: destination Crazy Town. It’s ridiculously silly and definitely, distinctly a Sion Sono movie. All I know is that I came out of the screening with a big, stupid grin on my face.