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Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Antiporno – Sion Sono lends unlikely feminist outlook to his roman porno homage

Japanese director takes a rare feminist standpoint in this soft-core porn story, that starts with a female author/artist and her domination/humiliation of her older assistant, and the gradual role reversal that ensues

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 7:27pm

4/5 stars

Seldom one to be praised for his positive representations of women onscreen (remember Virgin Psychics ?), Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono takes encouraging strides towards a more feminist outlook in Antiporno, his entry in film company Nikkatsu’s ongoing roman porno reboot project.

Following Wet Woman in the Wind and Aroused by Gymnopedies , Sono’s effort is easily the most ambitious entry yet in the series of re-imagined softcore entertainments. Not only does it challenge gender roles within the Japanese film industry – and in the country as a whole – but the film also attempts to deconstruct cinema as a voyeuristic narrative medium.

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Trapped in a gilded cage of her own success, coquettish novelist/artist Kyoko (Ami Tomite) is preparing to be interviewed for a prominent lifestyle magazine. Wrestling with nausea and self-doubt, she alleviates her insecurities by subjecting her older assistant, Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui, Harmonium), to a series of ritual humiliations.

About 30 minutes in, however, it is revealed that we have been watching a film, and Kyoko is actually a fledgling performer with no experience; the real prima donna is Noriko, who is quickly tiring of her co-star’s amateurish ineptitude. As the layers of Kyoko’s identity are peeled back, Sono dazzles us with a lurid kaleidoscope of fluorescent sets, outlandish costumes, dazzling imagery and, as the rules of roman porno dictate, salacious nudity every 10 minutes.

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What raises Antiporno above the director’s previous attempts to champion feminist protagonists, such as the misguided Tag , is that amidst these splashes of colour and flesh, he comes close to making a legitimate point.

Antiporno opens on March 23

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