Official Selection, New York Asian Film Festival 2013
Official Selection, Tokyo FilmeX 2012
“Its crazy energy, healthy fuck-you attitude and prevailing air of anarchy exemplify the best in Sono’s work” - Nicholas Vroman, FILM COMMENT
On Tokyo’s Chuo train line, an all-out gang war has been raging between the Chinese and the Japanese in anticipation of the handover, bound to return sovereignty of Hong Kong to Mainland China. The Koenji neighborhood is taken over by the conflict, stage for absurdly gigantic battles between self-righteous nationalist vigilantes and Chinese gangs, blocking streets and subways, taking no prisoners. At the centre of the madness, a brother struggles to protect his sister; a mysterious, ghostly, bobble-headed ramen vendor appears; surprising romances bloom and weird, wild alliances form. Welcome to Sion Sono’s BAD FILM, a thoroughly unpredictable and fantastical vision of Tokyo as you’ve never seen it before — part queer film, part gang epic, all Sono.
Starring the young director in a lead role, and hundreds of members of Tokyo GAGAGA, the performance art collective he founded in 1993, BAD FILM is not only entirely inaccurate in its title but a shockingly assured early film, recently unearthed and pieced together from more than 150 hours of footage shot on Hi-8 video in 1995. If prototypical, this is quintessential Sono – cinema at its most raw, energetic, and provocative; impossible to contain or reductively define, exploding in every direction with explorations of gender, sexuality, national identity and violence. Pure cinematic frenzy with a dash of poetry, this is a rough gem that seeps with a rage for filmmaking unseen since SUICIDE CLUB and HAZARD, perhaps unparalleled. Truly sweeping, BAD FILM also prefigures the epic, anything-goes attitude of an undisputed masterpiece such as LOVE EXPOSURE, while offering similar irreverence, humour and carnage, fully displaying the genesis of many of Sono’s trademark auteur quirks. Shot guerilla-style on the streets of Tokyo, in a carefree, blunt and audacious way, BAD FILM is a dizzying example of DIY filmmaking, chock full of breathtaking set pieces that would be wholly impossible to shoot in today’s restrictive age of permits and boxed-in protests.
A rare window into wilder times long gone, this is simply a must for any self-respecting Sonophile, as well as one of this year’s most exciting retro discoveries, for any fan of loud, abrasive and subversive Japanese cinema the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a long time.
— Ariel Esteban Cayer