Riaru onigokko (AKA Tag)
Dir: Sion Sono
****Fans of Sion Sono will no doubt know what to expect from the director by now, everyone else should proceed with caution, a firm stomach and an open mind. Within the first ten minutes, a school bus full of high-school girls on their way to class is sliced in half by a mysterious wind, leaving the bus and everyone inside, cut in half. Everyone apart from Mitsuko who just so happens to bend down at the right moment. Mitsuko soon finds herself running from the deadly wind, escaping it while passers-by are all sliced in half. She soon finds herself in another school after changing her bloody clothes with another school girl victim she finds further down the road. She meets with friends who seem to know her and soon begins to wonder who she is and if what has happened is actually real of a figment of her imagination. After confiding in her new friends, the girls discuss the possibilities of predetermined destiny, the likelihood of there being multiple realities with multiple versions of themselves and whether or not they could escape their destinies by tricking fate by simply doing something they would never normally do, thus changing the outcome. They then get killed by their teacher who mows them down with an automatic machine gun. The film is relentless. To be honest, twenty minutes later, I was still thinking about the bus-load of schoolgirls I just watched being sliced in half, the film and its overall idea was a good two steps ahead of me. I would argue that the film is open to interpretation, I would also argue that the film is somewhat flawed but the Tag of the title suggested to me that Mitsuko was somehow passing the baton of reality (as it were) to different versions of herself while seamlessly passing through one dimension to another. Each incarnation follows a familiar theme though and the overall message of escape is clear. It is also clear that this is a comment on feminism and how women are treated in society, suggesting (in my opinion) that there is a something of a futility of progression for young Japanese women living under a traditionalist authority and way of thinking. It has been label 'Grindhouse' meets 'Arthouse' but the sceptic in me suggests the former but I have no problem with that but I wonder whether Sono and his type of films are part of the problem, rather than any solution. I don't see how schoolgirls in miniskirt being beheaded can help feminism in anyway, you can call it post-modernist satire but I would remind you of my scepticism. However, never has such a gory film looked so utterly beautiful, Sono is many things but he is foremost a master film maker. We need directors like Sono to push the boundaries, his exploration of themes such as identity, fear and power and his philosophical and psychological takes on reality do raise valid questions and are genuinely fascinating, although I wonder whether they are becoming diluted due to his constant need for sensationalism and ultra-violent gore. Sometimes troubling but always fascinating, Sono will remain a love/hate director but long may he continue.