Fantasia 2015 Review: Sono Sion's TAG, Sure There Are Lots Of Japanese Girls In It, But...

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Fantasia 2015 Review: Sono Sion's TAG, Sure There Are Lots Of Japanese Girls In It, But...
Sono Sion's Tag opens with two busloads of Japanese school girls on a trip. It's all soft focus sweetness and light until the buses are attacked by an unseen force - literally a killer wind - and shy teen Mitsuko finds herself the lone survivor, running for her life. Every person she encounters in flight meets the same bloody fate from this fatal wind until Mitsuko stumbles onto some school grounds where she meets Aki. She is apparently her friend despite Mitsuko being unable to recall anything. Everyone presumes that she has experienced some kind of amnesia. When she skips first period with the girls one of them suggest that maybe Mitsuko is travelling between parallel universes. Food for thought. 

But when they return to school another massacre of teenage girls begins and Mitsuko flees and finds herself in another one of these universes, though she is now Keiko and she should be at the church preparing for her wedding day. Then after another assault on women begins in the church Keiko flees and becomes track and field runner Izumi. And because we are sensing a trend here the runners of this race get attacked and Izumi eventually flees into a cavern where she reverts back to Mitsuko. There Mitsuko discovers what is really happening around her and is left with only one devastating course of action in response to this revelation. 

Around the 45 minute mark I realize, wait a minute, I have not seen a single male character yet. Each world or reality is populated predominantly by teenage women. The first male character we see comes in the second act. It is Keiko's groom to be and he has a grotesque pig head on, presumably giving us a heads up on what is to come. More male characters will come in the third act - a decrepit old man in the cavern and a handful of men hanging out in an alley, looking at a poster of our three girls, some fondling themselves, and that is when Sono will reveal his supposed social commentary.

The gist of Sono Sion's Tag is this. As a woman, you are a man's play thing. You exist solely for male pleasure. And if you don't like it, kill yourself. Women cannot overcome any act of objectification by empowerment, only by a cowardly act of ultimate surrender. Now it becomes really difficult to defend this film because honestly, how can you even begin to defend that worldview? 

If intended as satire, Tag is hamstrung by Sono's own well developed tendencies towards fetishizing women. This feels more along the lines of an apologetic than a criticism, with everything leading up to the revelation at the end of Tag aimed at the pleasure centers of creepy dudes. It has loads of stylish violence, all of it against women. There are a ludicrous number of up-skirt shots in the first act and a church full of underwear laden beauties in the second, all of it culminating in references to gaming in the third act, which, in the past year and a half alone, is an industry that has had its image tarnished by a few meatheads, or, has been exposed for its overall poor attitude towards women.  

If this was meant to be satirical then Sono implodes on himself in such cowardly fashion with an enormously unsatisfying ending.

Tag is ultimately Sono Sion's bastardization of Yusuke Yamada's novel "Real Onigokko" for the purpose of perpetrating his own worldview, something that you can see throughout his body of work. The use of telekinetic powers to lift skirts and personal masturbators in his recent television series All Esper Dayo! for one, to say nothing of the general prevalence of rape fetish through a large handful of other titles (the recent Tokyo Tribe). It's the glibness to the worldview that's the most troubling thing here ... women are ultimately disposable and not worth considering? Sure, but wheeee! Looking up their skirts sure is fun!

You know the saying 'two steps forward one step back'? For every 'one' step forward that Sono has taken this year, Love & Peace was a huge favorite at Fantasia this year though I don't share nearly everyone's enthusiasm for it, he's taken 'two' steps back with Tag

Disappointing. 


Todd Brown and James Marsh contributed to this story.

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More about Tag (Sono)

My Damn CroissantsAugust 4, 2015 1:50 AM

SPOILERS FOLLOW

So you take the the events of the film exactly as they happen, and assume that they quite literally translate into Sono's worldview? That's barely a step away from watching any movie and assuming that the views of some vile/evil character must represent the filmmaker's real life views, especially considering it's the men objectifying her who're ultimately the film's villains.

Besides, they only bring men into play in the third act. Most of the movie was more about general existentialism, and the fact that it becomes specifically about women not being able to control their lives seemed like more of a by-product of the themes the movie developed. Most of the movie focuses on the relationship between the girls, and that's why she kills herself, so they don't have to keep dying. The way I see it, by doing so she was freeing the rest of them. After she stabs herself with the pen, the wind seemingly never comes to slice everyone.

Haha sorry for all that, it's the first Sono film I've ever seen, and frankly I loved it and already feel kinda defensive of it.

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 7:17 AM

Watch some more Sono and you'll see a VERY consistent thread of misogyny in his work. This is a long, long way from being an isolated occurrence and I very much share Andrew's opinion that it reflects his general thinking.

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 8:06 AM

"As a woman, you are a man's play thing".

Come on! You're being prejudiced for the sake of it.

Misogyny? Sexist? I don't think so. Everything has to be put on perspective. I could describe Japanese cinema almost as feminist. There are as many films with a female main protagonist as films with a male main protagonist, or more. Women always has a high level of power on japanese cinema. On the other hand we have Hollywood. It's Superhero territory now. There is no any other genre more "macho" than superhero genre. And so, there is no place for women on them.

There are a lot of examples of sexism in Hollywood and in Hollywood films. And Hollywood films never got analyzed from that perspective. Why do that with japanese films!?

Or, why don't we talk about the horror genre? Because this one seems to be in that category.

If Superhero genre is sexist, then US Horror genre is directly misogynist. The killer is always male, and there are plenty of female victims to dismember. And you don't talk much about it.

This review is full of bull.

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 8:08 AM

As fan of Sono, I completely disagree with you.

PS: Why Hammer Girl dies at the end? You sexist mother.....

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 8:19 AM

You don't say anything about the film. Only bitch around the supposed misogyny.

Are you the same guy that wrote about BLOOD FEAST being a classic? ;-)

Yes, classic.... classic double standard!!!

http://twitchfilm.com/2015/07/...

The same that loves Evil Dead. Talking about misogyny, right? ;-)

I only hope there is no tree rape in this one....

http://twitchfilm.com/2015/07/...

HlimeAugust 4, 2015 9:34 AM

You probably think Paul Verhoeven is sexist too, isn't it?

Jesus christ...

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 9:38 AM

Have you seen the film? The women in it - literally EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM - literally exist purely as male playthings. Literally. It is the only reason they exist. And their only recourse, assuming they don't like this, is to kill themselves. Literally. That's not prejudice, that's the actual, factual basis of the film. It's the core premise. There's nothing else to discuss in it, because that's literally ALL THERE IS.

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 9:39 AM

Acknowledging a film's stature and place in history has no bearing at all in its underlying worldview, or the worldview of its creator. Polanski has made a legitimate handful of true classic works of art. And that doesn't change the fact he's a rapist. Just as Sono having made some great films in no way negates the fact that this one is misogynist.

Further, having a horrible thing happen to a woman in a film is not the same thing as endorsing that behavior. The rape sequence in Evil Dead is HORRIBLE and is meant to be, as are the rape scenes in Irreversible, etc. When I mention rape-fantasy in comments below, what I'm referencing is the tendency in quite a lot of films by Sono (and Miike, among others) to include 'rape 'em 'til they like it' sequences, which they do quite a lot of. That's odious and objectionable on every level. When a rape is presented as a 'fuck, yeah' moment for the audience to get off on, there's a problem.

Further, again, having a female lead in your film does not inherently make your film a feminist film in any way, shape or form.

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 9:40 AM

You're more than free to be a fan of Sono. Man's made a handful (or more) of films that I truly love. But admiring his work - or at least some of it - in no way reduces the amount of rape fantasy he's scattered through his stuff from the very earliest days.

My Damn CroissantsAugust 4, 2015 9:47 AM

Well for now I haven't seen any others, so let's stick within the context of this film, and watching it I never got any sort of misogynistic message. Like so many Japanese films, sure there's some misogyny (okay, still pretty light compared to lots of stuff from Japan), but like I said before, since when does plot directly correlate with meaning? I agree with one of the commenter above, I find Japanese filmmakers (both male and female) to have a very feminist nature. I guess that's why brutal misogyny kinda is a staple of Japanese cinema, not because that's the message it's espousing, but because it's sadly a real part of lots of the stories they're telling.

I can't say for sure if Sono's body of work is necessarily like this too, but I found ''Tag'' fell pretty much in line with my theory. And if you wanna talk about disgusting rape fantasies, what would your thoughts be on the classic Ichi the Killer?

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 9:52 AM

I think when Verhoeven's on his game he's a great satirist. There's no satire in this film.

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 9:55 AM

I stopped watching Miike films for a few years because of the run of rape fantasy he was on for a while there. Man's frequently brilliant but also frequently moves into some fairly indefensible territory.

And read your defense here ... when the base of your argument starts with "Sure, there's some misogyny" you really should stop and ask if that's the best you can do.

If you want to keep the discussion within the world of this film, sure, answer these questions for me:

1. What is the world that the women - all of the women - are living in?
2. What is their function within that world?
3. Do they have any other options at all?

There are very clear, precise and explicit answers to every one of those questions within the film itself. And there is no possible way you can pitch those answers as pro-woman in any sense and I see nothing within the film itself that suggests Sono is presenting this worldview with any degree of criticism at all. It's not satire or criticism, he's rolling around in it and enjoying himself while doing so.

It's worth noting here, as well, that I'm a guy who publicly came out in support of A Serbian Film (http://twitchfilm.com/2010/03/..., which is a position that I still hold today. I have no issue AT ALL with extreme content or people pushing boundaries. The question is do they have something to say, and what is it. I take issue with what Sono's actually saying here, not in any way with how he's saying it.

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 9:56 AM

Heh. I just noticed the tag line on the poster art for the film. Nice. Classy. And pretty indicative of what the movie is.

JoshAugust 4, 2015 10:44 AM

Hah, I thought this movie seemed like a Sono flop, but you have just wrote a great synopsis here! Sounds like I'll enjoy this a lot more than Tokyo Tribe... god that was awful. I would never say Sono is a misogynist. He's a cynical feminist who's sold out a couple times.

My Damn CroissantsAugust 4, 2015 11:06 AM

You're taking half of my sentence out of context there with the ''sure there's misogyny" thing. I never said ''oh it's only as little, no biggie!'', I'm saying that there are miiiillions of films that have misogynistic characters (whom I repeat are suppose to be the bad guys) but that hardly means a film or filmmaker's ideas reflect that. That's my main point, which no one is addressing, you guys are taking a literal plot description and touting it as the film's message. I'm pretty sure that's not general how you interpret art, and that's especially true of surrealism. I see characters who are misogynists (but for the trillionth time, they are the bad guys!), but I don't see Sono making any misogynistic film making decisions.

Miike is the perfect example of a filmmaker who does make some truly offensive decisions in some of his films. While I feel in a movie like Icchi the rape is an important part of the movies themes, he has to glamorizes his shitty rapists and stylize the rape scenes.

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 11:19 AM

Completely agree with you on the Miike approach to (many) of the rape scenes in his films. As to Sono not making any misogynistic filmmaking decisions here ... did you miss the zillion gleeful upskirt shots? He's one of the men running the system, fully and completely. I was actively looking for him to criticize that system and find his way out of the whole that he was digging for himself but he never did. He was having far, far too much fun having all of his young stars play out the fantasy on screen. The men at the core of this are never criticized in any way, shape or form. There's never any suggestion that maybe they shouldn't do what they're doing. Never anything that suggests that the female lives are actually worth anything at all. and at the end she just kills herself and they all presumably move on to the next one, with no change, no reflection, and no qualms whatsoever. It is what it is, and everyone's okay with it.

What makes you suggest that the men are supposed to be villains? I see no suggestion of that.

If the intent was to go into an existing system and subvert it / pull the rug out from under his audience and hit them with their complicity - for a good example of that sort of film, see JT Petty's S&MAN - then I'd say he totally undercut himself in that venture by giving his own tendency to fetish run so out of control.

My Damn CroissantsAugust 4, 2015 11:55 AM

Wow, we really did just see the film in completely opposite ways. For me, the second you finally see what the men are up to they're immediately the villains, there's no need to make it any more obvious. I mean I think if we can at least agree that what they were doing was obviously wrong, so then I'd say Sono made it obvious enough. Heck, if I was one of those trashy Men's Rights bungholes, I'd probably be complaining about the fact that Sono shows all men as being heartless, sexist perverts.

I also found he made the girls extremely likable. The scenes at the beginning with the four of them were simply and maybe a little too sugary at times, but super effective. These girls feared for their control over their very existence, and I did so too right with them, cause that's a theme that at its core is completely gender-less.

as for the up-skirts, those were a little silly I'll admit, but in the context of the game make perfect sense, since the men playing are the ones objectifying them. But just cause the film props up some feminist-ish themes, doesn't mean Sono is a stuck up prude. There's no harm in some very slight titillation, it hardly feels like enough to undue the rest of the movie. It's just the simple pleasure of seeing attractive women, it's the same reason girls go to see Magic Mike and the stuff like that.

MikeAugust 4, 2015 1:47 PM

Yeah, that's pretty special.

Mikko KoivistoAugust 4, 2015 2:12 PM

As for the social commentary, I was amused by it. You could probably compare much of it to the anti-violence message in Death Wish 3 or the anti-war message in Rambo. The film certainly has its fun with schoolgirls, but then again, half of Japanese film, music, adult and sex industry is built on the schoolgirl phenomena. In my opinion anything as outrageously over-the-top as this can only be seen as half-parody, and should be far less offending than the understated sexism that might be found elsewhere. But obviously not everyone agrees.

But I do have to say I completely disagree with Todd's point about "that being all there is". I mean, the only male during the first 60 minutes is literally a grotesque pig. The other males in the film are 'wankers in the alley' and pervert(s) at the end. If the film was (only) trying to make a chauvinistic statement, wouldn't it try to make men look good rather than pathetic?

Also, if there was no criticism whatsoever, why would Sono include the line "stop playing with us [high school girls]!" which seemed to be aimed at all males [viewers].

Opinions aside, it might be a good idea to add a spoiler warning to the beginning of the review. I thought the mystery and the surprise shocks were one of the film's
strengths. This review gives away some of the best surprises that even the trailer doesn't show, especially the opening. I think it's entirely justified to discuss those things if sexism is the review's theme, but readers should
probably be warned about spoilers.

PeterKapowAugust 4, 2015 2:15 PM

I agree that this film is super problematic, but vehemently disagree that the film presents men as anything but villains. I mean, their presentation is not as gross as the slobs that play SOCIETY in Neveldine/Taylor's GAMER, but they're clearly presented as pathetic morally repgunant and entitled puppet-masters, and meant to reflect the "male audience" that films like TAG are made to be consumed by.

The fact that there is no victory over the system that the protagonist has been slaved too seems to be Sono's ultimate critical gesture with this film. I do agree that it is an awfully cynical and not at all satisfying one, but in no way is he going "YAY! She's dead and we can continue to have fun doing this." To me it absolutely came across as a tragic consequence.

Amy August 4, 2015 2:30 PM

I like his films, so when it is out i'll make my own mind up. Either way it looks like fun

Todd BrownAugust 4, 2015 2:49 PM

Entitled puppet masters, yes, and very effective ones. But morally repugnant? To who? I'd say not to anyone within the world of the film at all. I'd say that's baggage you're bringing to it because you're a decent human being. But I don't see that anywhere within the film itself. Closest thing I'd say to that is the groom being a pig, but I take that more as a power play against the woman - let's see what horrible thing we can force her to do - than any sort of comment on the players.

There's a POV issue here, the question being whose POV is the story being told from. It's certainly not from the women's, it's all from the player - the ultimate player being Sono himself. And what does that player do? Leer, degrade, kill, and when the woman pushes back, ultimately reset. Will the player stop playing after she kills herself? I see no reason to think that. Everything continues as is, ad nauseum. This is what women are good for, and the sum total of their worth in this world.

PeterKapowAugust 4, 2015 3:46 PM

But isn't the perpetuation of that culture the horror he's getting at with the end of the movie? Perhaps you're right, and its merely the baggage I am bringing, but yeah I really didn't see the film as an endorsement of that culture in its final minutes, rather a cynical and jaded reflection of it.

To return to Verhoeven (which i really hesitate doing, because I don't mean to imply that Sono's satire is as at all as elegant), Starship Troopers ends with a textual endorsement of a functional fascist regime that will continue to perpetuate itself; none of the characters in the film recognize the culture they've become complicit too. And yet it would be naive to call the film simply pro-fascist.

I just find it strange that anyone would positively identify with the "player" of TAG. I suppose it would be the same people who walked out of Fight Club and felt motivated to start their own clubs and MRA-leaning Mayhem programmes. Of course, that's a demo that is missing out on the true intention of the text, but also points towards why FC, like TAG, is a problematic work, but not one worth writing off entirely.

As I wrote to you on another venue, Sono's film foregrounds all of its problematic stuff so emphatically, that it becomes impossible to watch the film and not have a conversation about it. I think there's more value to that then the genre films that rehearse the tropes in the guise of a more benign and seemingly apolitical conceit.

(And to be fair, I have a lot of gaps in Sono's filmography and guarantee you've seen more of his stuff then me and are therefore better equipped to interpret his worldview. So I concede I may be giving him far too much credit.)

wagnerfilmAugust 4, 2015 5:59 PM

"He's a cynical feminist who's sold out a couple times." The fuck does that even mean?

wagnerfilmAugust 4, 2015 6:02 PM

The whole thing sounds like the jackoff fantasy of a kid who never got any dates in school and now hangs out all day on MRA subreddits.

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 9:19 PM

"Just as Sono having made some great films in no way negates the fact that this one is misogynist".

I suppose you have proofs to backup your accusation.

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 9:21 PM

So the 2008 Real Onigokko is misandry because kills men?

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 9:26 PM

Then Japan should do movies without rapes.

And then, because they are wrong too, Hollywood should do movies without murders.

And we'll have politically correct films that doesn't represent the world we live in! ;-)

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 9:29 PM

"The women in it - literally EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM - literally exist purely as male playthings."

That's describe the 99% of Hollywood films........

ZetoAugust 4, 2015 10:18 PM

Clarece Tsui from The Hollywood Reporter, in a much more interesting review, called Tag a "feminist" film.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.c...

j dAugust 5, 2015 3:12 AM

But his films are so good.

Ard VijnAugust 5, 2015 11:07 AM

TAG won three awards at Fantasia? I'm getting really fucking confused here people!

My Damn CroissantsAugust 5, 2015 1:29 PM

Any films gonna get at least SOME people who don't like it, that's perfectly normal. If you check out all the other reviews, you'll see it's being pretty well received...though even I hardly expected it to sweep up at the festival like it has.

dave mondoAugust 5, 2015 3:38 PM

Very different read on the film, though a look around writing coming out of Fantasia shows that Sono made something ripe for, maybe even inviting varied interpretations. Whether satire or not, i felt the shitty world you refer to, where running and committing suicide is answer, are presented as film or even game industries run by a male dominated society. The world, or it seems more like worlds, are like different works of fiction created in this culture than can be like a hell for women. Therefore, while it may seem like he's trying to have his cake and eat it too, unnecessary panty shots are under fire because they are part of this world that the main character is trapped in and trying to escape from.

Does this contradict aspects of Sono's previous films? Sure. Where does a director get off criticizing upskirt peeks when didn't one of films have a 45 minute running gag based around it? I don't profess to know for sure, but my reaction to this was that he is older now, reflecting, and including himself in the societal indictment. Same as the ridiculous opening scene, also a part of this crappy world he is criticizing, which is reminiscent of the infamous train jump in Suicide Circle. I think it's entirely possible for him to be saying 'I've been guilty of this, and maybe still kinda am.' Looking back through his films I think he's always kinda ridden a line. But there is clear evidence of strong female characters (Love Exposure, Play In Hell) and concern for the treatment of girls, women (Exte).

As far as the film suggesting suicide as a way out for the young women of the film as opposed to being empowered, I think this the film may be presenting a cynical and even bleak point of view, but that's a way to get at and try to effect a change in people's conscious. Suicide in my opinion shouldn't be encouraged or made to seem cool, but in a lot of art, it does represent a form of rebellion in extremely dire situations. To present a vision where the female protagonists here can just kick ass and fight the power seems overly simplistic and even a bit naive, considering how deeply rooted misogyny is in many aspects of Japanese culture. It would probably be a lot more forgettable too. The review seems genuinely disgusted with this sort of world, and I think that's what Sono wants you and I to feel about it. If that includes roads he's gone in the past, then that shows the possibility of his own maturation.

dave mondoAugust 5, 2015 3:55 PM

I wrote a lot in another post addressing this too, which was getting overly long. But i wanted to speak to this point more directly, I think it's false logic to read into Sono's vision based on any tagline in the poster, trailer etc. The Japanese film industry, I feel somewhat confident in saying, is pretty notorious in its lack of support of independent filmmaking and for misrepresenting a movie in its promotion. I wish I could cite more examples off the top of my head, but I'd say look at a film like Monster's Club and then check the trailer for it. Total mismatch. That industry is very much into selling tickets (which one isn't?) and not at all into things like subtext.
I don't think it's a stretch at all to presume Sono is throwing some harsh criticisms at this very industry right under its nose, while someone somewhere green lit seeing its commercial potential because it could be pitched as the same kind of derivative exploitation as the original franchise he's riffing on.

KurtAugust 5, 2015 4:49 PM

So this is essentially Sion Sono's SUCKERPUNCH then is it?

PeterKapowAugust 5, 2015 6:30 PM

One has to recognize that suicide has a pretty distinct cultural context in Japan. A Samurai might commit the act as a means of honourably escaping the contract with a Shogun they morally disagreed with, but were otherwise bound to obey.

PeterKapowAugust 5, 2015 6:33 PM

Even I think it is overall a lesser Sono and was surprised to see it get so much love in the awards categories. That being said I think its super fruitful that the film has inspired such discussion.

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 6:52 PM

And no any award... BEST FILM, BEST ACTRESS and SPECIAL MENTION for its "creative, surprising and monumental opening kill sequence"!!! ;-)

And, for the sake of it, Sono also won Gold Prize for Best Asian Feature with "Love and Peace".

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 6:53 PM

They ARE. Tag received 3 awards at Fantasia.

http://www.indiewire.com/artic...

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 6:55 PM

Sucker Punch didn't win any awards. Tag, did. ;-)

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 7:00 PM

And positive reviews (combined with awards) keep coming!

http://waytooindie.com/review/...

http://www.soundonsight.org/fa...

My Damn CroissantsAugust 5, 2015 7:20 PM

I'm new to Sono (this was my first, I watched "Play in Hell" last night), and the fact is I hardly remember the last time I was so excited after discovering a new filmmaker. That's doubly true, considering I've seemingly still got his best work ahead of me. Life can be good sometimes...

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 7:20 PM

Did you supported "A Serbian Film" and despised a multiple awarded film of (maybe) the best director working today?

Maybe cinema is not your thing.... ;-)

Todd BrownAugust 5, 2015 8:25 PM

Yeah. Good analogy.

Todd BrownAugust 5, 2015 8:26 PM

Oh, Why Don't You Play In Hell is amazing. One of his absolute best. Do Love Exposure next.

Todd BrownAugust 5, 2015 8:27 PM

Heh. I love how you consistently shit all over public opinion at every possible chance until it happens to line up with your own opinion, at which point it magically becomes authoritative.

Todd BrownAugust 5, 2015 8:28 PM

This isn't an independent. It's backed by one of the biggest studios in the country.

Todd BrownAugust 5, 2015 8:39 PM

Well, I had two films I exec produced announced in selection in Toronto today with a third one still to come. I think cinema and I are getting on okay.

My Damn CroissantsAugust 5, 2015 9:24 PM

Haha, I just ordered the dvd along with Strange Circus and Suicide Club.

And the last hour of Why don't you play in hell was a blast! First half was kinda a mess, but really just cause there was so much going on he had to set up. I'm legitimately obsessed now....help!

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 9:38 PM

I'm not the one trashing Sion Sono.

ZetoAugust 5, 2015 9:44 PM

I know. ;-)

But if you don't love japanese cinema, for me you don't know jack about cinema.

Sorry, my opinion.

dave mondoAugust 5, 2015 10:10 PM

That's an interesting perspective to consider. I think you can also divorce it from traditional contexts too and look at it from the other way around starting with the suicide, an occurrence I believe Sono has dealt with in other films, and ask why did it happen? And then you have the whole rest of the movie as a sort of hypothesis, be it accurate or misguided...That this sense of pointlessness and hopelessness to change this unjust world in which she is among those subjugated...that came to mind while watching, anyway.

dave mondoAugust 5, 2015 10:13 PM

Well said. The discussion generated by the film in a very short time has generated so many interesting ideas, and i don't necessarily mean here. One well-written piece, for instance, authored by a female critic fas it were, did not note anything about feminism or systematic male oppression and yet also viewed the film very favorably.

dave mondoAugust 5, 2015 10:27 PM

Not the most well formed point on my part, but what I'm getting at is studio's probable lack of interest in subtext of films, and a tendency in the case of other Japanese films for marketing to be misleading. Basically, I don't think it's fair to say the tag line on that poster represents Sono's point of view at all.

I think a very intriguing part of this puzzle, which I would like to see discussed, is the original Onigokko and its franchise and how Sono sees his film in relation to them. Wasn't dealt with at all in the article, and I guess there's no obligation to. But seems very apparent to me Sono made an entry in that very tired and derivative series that makes one consider the negative treatment of women in that very franchise and others like it.

Todd BrownAugust 5, 2015 10:32 PM

Loving Japanese cinema doesn't mean blind devotion to everything that comes out of the country. Loving ANYTHING doesn't mean willful blindness to its faults.

Mikko KoivistoAugust 6, 2015 4:00 AM

I never understood the praise for Why Don't You Play in Hell. Of course, it does have its moments, but I found the ending especially to be such a terrible CGI mess that it felt like a disgrace for old genre films, rather than a loving tribute. Oh well, I guess it's good if you don't care about bad CGI blood. Also, I'm always a bit irritated when Sono reuses music from his earlier films.

Love Exposure, Suicide Club, Hazard, and Noriko's Dinner Table are the truly great Sono films for me. I don't think anything he has done in the recent years has come even close to those films.

From this summer's films, I thought Tag and Love & Peace were pretty good overall; Shinjuku Swan was his worst ever.

ZetoAugust 6, 2015 7:54 AM

Nor doesn't mean blind animosity.

Todd, admit you was wrong about this one! ;-)

Jason GrayAugust 6, 2015 8:46 AM

Film's box office & user reviews are suffering here, unfortunately. Maybe Fantasia prizes will give it a boost. The older "Chasing World" films offered OK small scale sci-fi action, directed by salaryman Issei Shibata at Geneon-U (he didn't work in film dept. originally). Not sure why Sono couldn't have grafted his worldview onto the reasonably solid gensaku...

Todd BrownAugust 6, 2015 9:51 AM

Nothing blind here. I've seen the film, along with the vast majority of Sono's output.

Art VandelayAugust 7, 2015 6:52 AM

I can accept the opinions of this film, as everyone should, since this is just an opinion. Different strokes for different folks.

But I can't and won't accept someone who dislikes a film AND spoils the entire film in their review. Come on, man. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.

VanillaDecember 9, 2015 12:41 PM

You are very annoying and I feel like someone needs to tell you. If you love this film so much, get down from your high horse and defend it with a proper analysis instead of trowing all the awards that it won at people. Give some real arguments or kindly leave. "It won tons of awards" is not an argument. And honestly I think cinema is not your thing. And you are the one that doesn't know jack because you are clearly incapable of analyzing a film past the "omg it's so cool and it won so many awards" are you sure you even know what the film even means?

You have no right to attack other people for their interpretation on the film when they clearly respect the film way more than you do. The simple fact that you refuse to look at it past the surface level says enough. You see this movie and just go: "Oh, shiny!!" all over it.

And in case you haven't noticed yet, I don't give a damn wether or not it won awards, that doesn't mean the movie is perfect and that everyone in the world should love it. Look at Gravity for example, it won tons of awards and I hated that movie. To me it felt bland, boring and like a waste of time. Yet it had tons of awards because "the music was great" and "the CGI was amazing". And my opinion was: so what? The story was boring and unsatisfying. That's the difference between only looking at the surface level and respecting the movie enough to search for a deeper meaning.

In any case your condescending attitude is unacceptable and unwelcome. I don't go around attacking people for not sharing the same ideas that I do. To be honest the only reason I'm here is because I was reading trough the comments and ended up getting fed up with your attitude. When your only argument is to say that someone is inherently wrong simple because you say so, then people should just ignore you.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 10:45 AM

Not one aspect of this review has changed my mind about this fantastic film. The reviewer's reaction to the film feels to me like the product of him being pussified by crybaby US media and on-line feminist attacks on anything even hinting at eroticism or female nudity.

TAG is an amazing, audacious piece of cinema, and one of Sono's very best of late. My favorite Sono is LOVE EXPOSURE, then COLD FISH.

As to the charges of misogyny: does blowing up and killing women in a fantasy mean you hate them? No. That's way too simplistic. A lot of men get killed in DIE HARD. Is the director a misandrist?

TAG has a unique point of view that felt totally refreshing to me, and I loved the way that Sono kept the film moving and in constant flux.

And since when is fetishizing a woman some kind of cinematic crime? Films fetishize everything. It's very natural to do so. Unless the feminazis tell you it isn't.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 10:46 AM

What? His thinking about what exactly? He HATES women. Where exactly is the evidence of this hatred, Todd?

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 10:54 AM

Misogyny is a very tall charge, and I don't see hatred of women in Sono's films. Do you also see hatred of women in pink films such as ASSAULT JACK THE RIPPER, WIFE TO BE SACRIFICED, and WHITE ROSE CAMPUS? I don't. They involve stories of rape, sex, subjugation, and violence, but, again, they are not conveying a hatred of women. A story involving women being killed or raped is not evidence that the director hates women. It's too easy to make that charge.

On the other hand, many action movies involve the wholesale killing of men. Take John Woo's THE KILLER. He kills a lot of men, and a lot of the male are mere gunfire fodder. Does Woo hate men? Is he guilty of misandry?

I think most of this is the pussified Western male reaction to eroticism and fetishism that has been demonized by female-centric, Oprah-shaped media. Such males feel the need to call "misogyny!" out of some misplaced sense of collective guilt when that charge is far, far more complex, and few men truly hate women.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 10:56 AM

You are wrong, Todd. Or your definition of misogyny is certainly wrong. Look it up.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 11:00 AM

Agreed, Mikko, on all points. SHINJUKU SWAN awful.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 11:01 AM

Agreed. The tag line is completely studio-generated, and represents how they have decided to sell it. Sono has no say in that.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 11:04 AM

Agreed.

Tras CristalDecember 10, 2015 11:05 AM

"Sold out" to what?

Todd BrownDecember 10, 2015 12:19 PM

You do, of course, realize that breaking out the gender specific insults when trying to argue who is and is not a misogynist is entirely self defeating, right?

Tras CristalDecember 27, 2015 12:56 AM

There are "gleeful upskirt shots"? So what!? What makes these misogynistic? Is looking up a woman's skirt hateful? You don't know the meaning of the word –– and sexualizing anything doesn't make it hateful towards man, woman, animal, plant, or mineral. I think you've been a little to vagina-fied by the American media.

Tras CristalDecember 27, 2015 12:58 AM

"Super-problematic"? In what way exactly?

Tras CristalDecember 27, 2015 1:00 AM

Exec producing is not making films, Todd. It's not a creative role. Exec producing is lending your name, your company, or raising some money.

Todd BrownDecember 27, 2015 10:00 AM

Really? Would you like to tell me more about how I spend my time every day?

corradoFebruary 14, 2016 5:07 AM

wow, i got almost an opposite vibe from the movie (a bit like My Damn Croissants).
as much as i love Sono (and i love him very much) i am often put off by some aspects of his movies (i could cite many examples, the last one is the treatment of the lady cop at the beginning of tokyo tribe), so i understand where you're coming from.
but for this movie... i just don't see it.
especially in regard of the viewing of men (in my eyes they are totally portrayed as, pathetic and without any doubt *villains*, to the point of being caricatures. and yes i mean IN the world of the movie), and i did not feel at all the "perpetrating his own worldview", or even that worldview to be present...
but i fear there's no point in trying to get through your interpretation of the movie, and this thread is too *violent* for my energies :)
it's like you don't even want to concede a single possibility for a different take (maybe it's just because there's some light assholery in some of the opposite view commenters...)
not saying it's a masterpiece,but in short i found it the opposite of misogynistic.
i was so surprised by Todd's opinion and Andrew's review that i had to comment here in Twitch for the first time in yeeears as a faithful reader :)

owenFebruary 15, 2016 9:23 PM

Enough with the faux moralism!

Jimi LaMortAugust 24, 2016 2:00 PM

Woah. You really read this film wrong. Like most the commenters here, i perceived quite the opposite. Perhaps you should go back and watch it again. Personally, the fact that Sono took a what was suppose to be the sixth film in The Chasing World series, which is a series of successful run of the mill teen thrillers and turn it into a provocative art film is a triumph unto itself. I wish more directors when handed a typical sequel to direct, would turn into something more original and interesting like Sono. '
I thought TAG was brilliant.

Jimi LaMortAugust 24, 2016 2:36 PM

Since when is Polanski a rapist? If anyone has their facts wrong, it is obviously you.

This film is also an obvious attack on misogyny, like his previous films NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE and GUILTY OF ROMANCE. Let me state the obvious, once again. BECAUSE A FILM HAS A RAPE SCENE DOES NOT MEAN IT CONDONES RAPE! If you believe that, then i guess that makes all war movies pro-war?!?!? Sometimes you have to show the villain to out them!!

Jimi LaMortAugust 24, 2016 2:39 PM

Let me state the obvious, once again. BECAUSE A FILM HAS A RAPE
SCENE DOES NOT MEAN IT CONDONES RAPE! If you believe that, then i
guess that makes all war movies pro-war?!?!?

Jimi LaMortAugust 24, 2016 4:03 PM

".There's no satire in this film."

You sure you saw the same film i saw? The film was quite hilarious.
Sion Sono has made three of the greatest Feminist films directed by a man in the last two decades!!
GUILTY OF ROMANCE, NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE and TAG highlight the misogyny in today's world and all three films have two smart and strong female leads kicking against this system. Sure the film portray a anti-women stereotypes but that doers not mean the creator agrees with what is going on in this world.

nayvadius demun wilburnJuly 22, 2017 5:22 AM

i think u misunderstood this film & need to watch it 1 more time