It’s like Kill Bill made by Weird Al on bath salts

by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

poster-whyWhy Don’t You Play in Hell?
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, RPL Film Theatre
3.5 out of 5

Imagine a movie in which the guy behind the camera is extremely talented but has no discipline whatsoever and caters to every whim that crosses his mind. Odds are the outcome would look just like Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, a lively and insane comedy (I think) by one of Japan’s most gleefully excessive filmmakers, Sion Sono.

Plot summary? I don’t know; Why Don’t You Play In Hell is hard to explain. How about a description of the factions and their disputes?

THE FUCK BOMBERS: A teenage film collective whose mission in life is to make movies, American style (meaning gallons of blood, extreme violence and solid production values). Their leader is Hirata, a single-minded wannabe director. Hirata’s already over-the-top enthusiasm hits an all-time high when he meets gifted martial artist Sasaki. Hirata has an epiphany: he must turn Sasaki into a star!

Ten years later, this hasn’t happened and Sasaki threatens to walk. Desperate, Hirata comes up with a brilliant (meaning beyond stupid) plan: insert his Fuck Bombers into a Yakuza turf war and document it.

MUTO’S GANG: Muto is the city’s reigning mob boss. Besides leading a Yakuza clan, Muto is the father of Mitsuko, who was on the verge of pop stardom a decade ago, but whose career was undone by the family “business”. To make it up to his daughter and impress his soon-to-be-released-from-jail wife, Muto goes along with the Fuck Bombers’ plan — on the condition Mitsuko gets a starring role.

IKEGAME’S GANG: A younger, less flashy group, these Yakuza have a score to settle with Muto. The leader, Ikegame, has a beyond-inappropriate crush on Mitsuko, so the idea of being in a movie with her entices him to participate in the Fuck Bombers’ cinema verité experiment.

All these storylines converge in an all-out bloodbath that Quentin Tarantino would call excessive. It’s funny, revolting and even nostalgic at times.

The depiction of Hirata’s gonzo filmmaking process is both insightful and a riot. The “below the line” crew is so engrossed in their jobs, the bloody confrontation around them doesn’t even register. Hirata is an obvious proxy for Sono, making Why Don’t You Play In Hell? both a meta commentary on filmmaking and a seminar on what makes Sono tick.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell is too long (over two hours) and eventually, the blood-drenched confrontations become repetitive (you see 12 decapitations, you’ve seen 100). Also, the ending is sentimental and kind of a cop-out, though I suppose it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

It’s very likely this is the first time Saskatchewan audiences will be exposed to Sion Sono’s brand of madness. To broaden your knowledge in all things Sono, check out Suicide Club (teenagers are killing themselves all over Japan for no good reason) and the four-hour upskirt-photography epic, Love Exposure. Strong stomachs and a love of ferociously unrestrained filmmaking are a must.