TORONTO AFTER DARK 2015: NIGHT 8
After a fairly rough couple of nights (apart from a few gems here and there) I was more than relieved for it to be Sion Sono night. With the last Sono film that I watched being the seriously enjoyable Why Don't You Play In Hell?, my expectations were at an all-time high and even still he managed to blow me away.
Tag (screened with the short film Fuck Buddies)
Although I had only a minimal amount of knowledge of Sono's work while I was going into this evening (but just enough to know that he's a bafflingly good and prolific filmmaker), and I had heard a lot on the festival circuit about Love & Peace, I knew absolutely nothing about Tag and had no idea what to expect. The story follows Mitsuko, a quiet, doe-eyed young girl who experiences a terrible tragedy when everyone on the bus she's on is brutally mutilated by a harsh passing wind. Distraught, she fumbles to her high school where everyone seems to know who she is, even though she only remembers her best friend, Aki. For a moment it seems as though Mitsuko's bloody nightmare is over, until horrible massacres continue to happen again and again.
Although the shocking opening sequence warranted a sea of giggles in the audience because it is so unexpected, Tag quickly becomes a very dark and angry affront on masculinity and the idea of being subservient as a female. Although Tag will undoubtedly leave audiences with more to chew on than may be expected, it is balanced by a bright and vibrant colour palette and cast of energetic and fantastic actresses who all fit their role perfectly. Watch Tag with an open mind and be prepared to dissect it, because it is far deeper than any run-of-the-mill splatter movie.
Tag was preceded by the short film Fuck Buddies by Nate Wilson, which follows two platonic roommates named Joseph and Ellie, who are sleeping together but trying to keeping it casual. They soon discover that supernatural forces are forcing them to continue having sex, and their true feelings for each other come into the forefront. This seriously impressive piece pairs well with Sono, as it runs at a longer twenty minutes but never overstays its welcome for a moment. It is heartfelt, relatable, funny, and will leave audiences thinking about any time they've slept with someone they cared about just a little bit too much. One of my favourites of the festival thus far.
Love & Peace (screened with the short film The Champ)
When Toronto After Dark programmer Peter Kuplowsky introduced Tag, he mentioned that after the film is over viewers will feel like they need a hug, and that Love & Peace is that hug; and there is no better way to describe the pairing of these two movies. Tag left me feeling riled up and sad and near tears in the culminating minutes, but after Love & Peace was over, I had nothing but happy tears welling up in my eyes (which was super embarrassing because I was sitting with a bunch of good looking men). Sono once again strikes it out of the park with this rock comedy (which could also easily double as an offbeat Christmas children's film) about a man named Kyo who is so unbelievably nerdy and reclusive that he feels like even characters on the television are mocking him. On one particularly lonely lunch he sees a man who is selling turtles, and buys himself one as a companion. He names the turtle Pikadon and the two begin a beautiful friendship, and through a series of happenings work together to help Kyo become an enormous rock star.
Although Sono's work seems to always run fairly long, the majority of his films are so evenly paced that a long run-time never becomes an issue. People can compare this movie to the likes of Toy Story or even a little Phantom of the Paradise, which is fair, but it is still so unique and far from the beaten path that people would be doing themselves a serious disservice to skip it. Is it possible to give a movie 6 out of 5 stars?
Love & Peace was preceded by the short film The Champ, which follows a boxer who is on death row awaiting execution. This piece has a little less depth than some of the previous shorts in this year's festival, but it is a stylish, good-looking example of what the filmmakers are capable of
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