Love Exposure is a 2008 film by Shion Sono of Suicide Club fame. It clocks at in three minutes shy of four hours long. It focuses on the themes of family, love, lust, religion, and upskirt photography.
The film follows Yu Honda, a Catholic teenager in Japan, whose mother tells him to find a woman like the Virgin Mary before her death. His father Tetsu later becomes a priest, and the two live a seemingly peaceful life until a woman who comes to their church falls in love with Tetsu and shakes his confidence in doing his job. After she leaves, Tetsu makes Yu come to confession daily. As Yu believes himself to be a good person, he has very little to confess, so he makes up small sins. After this approach fails to appease his father, he begins to purposely commit sins to appease his father. This leads to him associating with gang members, learning to fight and commit crimes, until eventually he becomes involved in upskirt photography.
And that's barely even the first half-hour.
Sono had made a two-hour long cut of the film to appease his producer, but the numerous cuts to the story made for some confusing plot holes. The original cut was six hours long. The four-hour long final cut was meant as a compromise.
The film gained a certain amount of notoriety throughout festivals both for its length and for its irreverent handling of religion. The film has gathered numerous awards, most notably the FIPRESCI Prize and the Caligari Film Award at the Berlin International Film festival.
This work contains examples of the following tropes:
- All Men Are Perverts: According to Yoko, which is why she hates them. Granted, she has a terrible history with men (including her own father being vocal about his desire to rape her), and most of the men in the movie are perverts.
- As the Good Book Says...: Yoko is quite fond of 1 Corinthians 13.
- Break the Cutie: Yu might be employed by perverts, but is generally a well-meaning, good person who can't even step on an ant. First his father breaks him by becoming cruel following his breakup and practically forces him to turn to a life of sin, and then he falls in love with Yoko, which leads to little but heartbreak.
- Broken Bird: Yoko already had a tough time with a perverted father and a fear of men, but she turns into this hard after Yu tries to deprogram her from the cult, and repeatedly tries to save her.
- Chekhov's Gunman: The pervert with the bomb, who confesses to Yu midway through the movie that he would love to detonate it somewhere populated. Yu later reconnects him and uses the bomb to destroy part of the Zero Church headquarters.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Played with. Yu partakes in upskirt photography but not for personal pleasure. The same goes for his "pervert priest" act.
- Cult: The Zero Church. There are obvious public suspicions early on, but Yu and his friends later discover that it is far more insidious than it could be believed, as the cult abducts entire families and brainwashes them into doing their bidding.
- Deprogramming: Yu and his friends kidnap Yoko and take her to an isolated beach location in an attempt to deprogram her from the Zero Church. Though he's able to make an ounce of progress with her, it ultimately fails when Aya returns and gets her back.
- Played successfully with Tetsu and Kaori in the end.
- Disguised in Drag: Yu dresses up as Lady Scorpion after losing a bet to his friends.
- Does Not Like Men: Yoko, due to a Freudian Excuse, believes all men are worthless and disgusting except for Kurt Cobain and Jesus.
- Driven to Madness: Yu by the end of the film, as well as arguably Aya. (She arguably started off mad.)
- Driven to Suicide: Aya commits seppuku after she realizes Yu truly loves Yoko, and the cult is about to be exposed.
- Dysfunctional Family: Kaori is a sex pest obsessed with Tetsu, a priest, and convinces him to leave the church in order to marry her, and become a blended family with her ex-lover's daughter, Yoko, who Tetsu's son Yu is in love with. And if that isn't weird enough, Kaori and Tetsu are constantly facing a strained relationship because Kaori gets bored easily, so even on a foundational level, it's dysfunctional.
- Dysfunction Junction: All three teenage leads grew up in abusive households.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After dealing with abusive parents, getting expelled from school, dealing with a psychopath leading a religious cult and having both halves of the couple lose their minds at different points, Yu and Yoko finally come together in the end.
- Epic Movie: The movie's notorious runtime is nearly four hours long — and the director wanted it to be six hours, but had to cut it down.
- Freudian Excuse: Yoko and Aya both had unpleasant relationships with their fathers.
- Genre Whiplash: A very relentless example, switching between romance, comedy, action, drama, satire, and gangster movie.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Subverted. While the movie portrays Aya and Yoko's affair as sensual, it's only agony for Yu.
- Heroic BSoD: After Yoko nearly strangles him to death, Yu gets fed up, calls her and everyone else there hopeless, and has a mental breakdown.
- High-Pressure Blood: Yu kills the cult leader and several security guards in his Roaring Rampage For Revenge, all of whom start spurting blood at the slightest injury.
- Hot for Preacher: Kaori is so immediately obsessed with Tetsu that she becomes a Christian just to get closer to him, though she immediately makes romantic overtures on him afterwards. Deconstructed in that it seems to be just a fad and Reality Ensues when they have to keep their relationship a secret, much to her chagrin, and she leaves him after a few months for somebody else — though she finds herself unable to stay away from him and eventually returns.
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Senpai's name seems to be actually Senpai. Even people completely unrelated to the gang call him that.
- Japanese Christian: All of the film's main characters in their demented fashion.
- Japanese Delinquents: Yuu's friends Takahiro, Tag Yuji, and Senpai are shown to be part of a bosozoku gang, even though they don't ride bikes themselves. Unusually for fictional delinquents, they are actually shown committing (petty) crimes.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Even cooler than Kurt Cobain, according to Yoko.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Yu's weapon of choice when he decides to take on Zero once and for all.
- Love Hurts: Yu's life becomes way more agonizing when he falls in love with Yoko, especially because she wants nothing to do with him. He loves her so much he's willing to infiltrate a dangerous cult just to save her.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Yoko is in love with Sasiro, but loathes Yu.
- Madness Mantra: "Give it to me!", the blatantly sexual Yoko's father had forced her to repeat when she was younger. She later starts repeating it again when coming apart at the seams over Yu and again after she kills herself.
- Odd Friendship: Develops between Yuu and the Plucky Comic Relief delinquents (Senpai, Takahiro, and Tag Yuji) he meets knocking over a vending machine. He's into sin and they find his philosophy on life funny. Despite their initial meeting, their friendship grows to be one of the most heartwarming and enduring relationships in the movie.
- Panty Shot: Justified. Considering that the main character partakes in upskirt photography, a few of these are pretty much a given.
- Parental Incest: Yoko's father openly states he wishes he could have sex with her, though he doesn't go through with it. Aya's father seems to enjoy inflicting sadistic torture on her, and it's implied they had some sort of incestuous connection; when Aya discovers him with an erection following a stroke, one of her first impulses is to get on top of it.
- Pervert Dad: Yoko and Aya both have one.
- Race for Your Love: The film ends with Yu escaping the mental ward and racing after Yoko, who's in the back of a police car.
- Raging Stiffie: Yu gets one nearly every time he even looks at Yoko.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Yu's attack on Zero Church, killing a few guards with a katana and then blowing up part of the building in an effort to save Yoko.
- Schoolgirl Lesbians: Aya manipulates Yoko into falling for her and dating her by pretending to be Sasori.
- Sensei for Scoundrels: Master Lloyd, who teaches Yu all he knows about the art of upskirt photography.
- Sex Isevil:
- Shout-Out: Sasori, the woman whom Yu cross-dresses as, is based on Meiko Kaji's character from the Female Prisoner Scorpion films.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Yu for Yoko. Despite his obsessive quest to find his soulmate, he isn't interested in a single woman and isn't even slightly aroused by all the upskirt photography he does until he meets her; she even gives him his first erection at seventeen.
- Sticky Fingers: Tag Yuji's nickname comes from never cutting the tags or coupons off the clothes he shoplifts.
- Villainous Crush: Aya is infatuated and obsessed with Yu, though her advances only serve to freak him out.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Yu's friends, despite being a big part of the first few acts, don't show up again after he gets hospitalized.