This review was originally posted last summer during the NYAFF, the blu-ray features review is the only new addition to the article. This film came in at number two on my top 10 of 2014 list.
As we continue to storm on and transition from the NYAFF to Japan Cuts, there are still a few titles which are co-presented by both festivals, one of which is Sion Sono’s crazy love letter to filmmaking and the movies titled Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
Trying to coherently explain Why don’t You Play in Hell? is rather futile but the basic plot points are this, a group of four passionate and wild filmmakers dubbed the Fuck Bombers are trying to direct a masterpiece while two feuding Yakuza gangs, the Kitagawa and Muto clans, are bracing for all-out war. The thing is, one of the gang leaders is obsessed with the other leader’s daughter, Mitsuko, the star of a toothpaste ad 10 years prior. He is on a mission to find and keep her while her father tries to groom her into an actress so that he can show his wife a movie starring their daughter when she’s released from prison. Things get a little hectic and soon the clans decide to shoot the epic final showdown on film, cue the eager Fuck Bombers and a climax that you’ll never forget.
Though simplified I still find the above synopsis a shotgun blast of an explanation. Sion Sono’s latest films isn’t something to be taken seriously, it’s an over-the-top, outrageous and absolutely hilarious film that’s mashes up a variety of genres, like martial arts and the yakuza genres, and then adds in gallons of blood on top of excellent running jokes and slapstick humor.
What’s awesome about the movie is that it stars some very familiar faces in comedic versions of past serious roles that they’ve had. Guys like Tak Sakaguchi, Kunimura Jun, and Tsutsumi Shinichi are having so much fun on screen that it becomes so obvious as to why they decided to say yes to this film in the first place. I mean, Tak’s character is the action star of the Fuck Bombers and his main job is to play the Japanese Bruce Lee, yellow jumpsuit and all. He does a kick-ass job and embraces the absurdity to no end.
Sono’s film isn’t exactly the most coherent piece of cinema but thankfully this isn’t a film you need to try and understand, instead this is a film that you take as is, no substitutions, no wishing for things to change, it’s an all-or-nothing flick that delivers everything you’ve both never and always hoped for in a movie about loving 35mm movies.
While R100 may be one of the most ridiculous films I’ve seen this year, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? may be one of the funniest that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen it twice and laughed just as hard both times. The film is chock full of surprises and lunacy that makes it a pure joy to watch. Lastly, it has one of the most epic climactic battles I have ever seen on a big screen, a grandiose fight filled with buckets of blood splatter and a ton of insane humor that makes you glad to be alive in an age where there are still rebellious filmmakers willing to do whatever the hell they want.
The Blu-ray comes with an 11×17” fold-out poster of the film created by comic artist James Callahan. It’s a wild looking piece that fits perfectly with the insane nature of the film. There’s also a 24-page booklet that contains stills from the movie and the work in progress shots of James Callahan’s poster. The cover of the booklet was done by Jay Shaw. Lastly, the film comes with a digital download the film to watch on the go.
The disc: The blu-ray seems like it’s not that great of quality but the picture is sharp, it’s just that the movie wasn’t shot digitally, it was shot on film and intended to look amateurish, hence the grainy, old school looking feel to it.
Press conference with director Sion Sono (22:20) – While the quality of the footage is rather poor, it you enjoy Sion Sono and love this movie as much as I do then it’s worth watching. The conference is basically Sion Sono and one of his oldest friends, who now helps edits his films and runs a publishing company/magazine, discussing the film and its origins. The film is based on their lives and making movies when they were growing up. They were both part of a group called the Fuck Bombers and, the coolest tidbit, was finding out that a random high school kid named Noboru Iguchi showed up one day with a flyer to join them. I thought was an incredible little fun fact and it explains Tak Sakaguchi’s ties to Sion Sono. Sono was actually the one in real life who wore the Bruce Lee tracksuit that Sakaguchi wears in the film and was chased and attacked in real life for looking weird and making movies.
One of the things they stressed was that this movie was not a Kill Bill parody even though there was a big emphasis on Bruce Lee. Bruce was the focus and bringing him back to life is something they wanted to do. They discussed that this was a film about people who made movies at the bottom of the pyramid and had to go through hell as a fanboy to achieve their goals of completing a film. The film was made to seem like it was shot like an amateur, which explains the grainy and chaotic visuals of the film.
Lastly, Sono talks about how winning the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival was so much more exciting to him than winning anything at Cannes and Venice due to the level of competition and the types of films he was up against. TIFF has much more entertaining films versus the typical dramas you find at the other two festivals.
Trailers: Red and green band trailers for Why Don’t You Play in Hell?; Pieta; The FP; Miami Connection; Cheap Trills
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download from Drafthouse Films and Cinedigm