(SION SONO, 2015) 

Reina Triendl in a scene from Sion Sono's  Tag  {Photo: SHOCHIKU}

Reina Triendl in a scene from Sion Sono's Tag {Photo: SHOCHIKU}

My second encounter with Japanese cult auteur Sion Sono proved infinitely more satisfying, if only for the shared enthusiasm of its festival setting. Case in point: see Tag as part of any midnight programming your theater/festival may offer to experience something wholly unique. 

A ludicrous opening transitions from a schoolgirl pillow fight to a gust of wind slicing everyone in its path with the body count amassing to the hundreds within the span of minutes. The lone survivor, Mitsuko (Reina Triendl), a wistful, poetry-writing teen, manages to maneuver herself away from danger, running into what then appears to be a separate reality where her friends are fine, completely unaware of the bizarre fantasy that she speaks of.  This respite is expectedly short-lived, as another flush of violence sweeps away at everyone that Mitsuko loves.

What makes this creative enterprise so satisfying is how Sono paces his departures into violence, which function as “levels” by which Mitsuko – and eventually her avatar counterparts - must survive in order to make it to the final “boss” level. I’ve never cared for films that rely on such overt video game aesthetics to realize their ambitions, but Sono’s surrealist tendencies complement the style, reminiscent of how Edgar Wright composed Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, only excessively violent. As such, Sono presents his video game elements as complementary to a larger existentialist crisis, undercutting the more dramatic and anxiety ridden moments through an acute sense of visual humor. 

The picture’s finale is as surreal as what preceded it, marked by a condemnation of feminine objectification. It’s not the most eloquent statement that Sono makes and seems a bit disingenuous in this universe of swine matrimony, warfare academia (this will surely generate a degree of discomfort), and deadly gusts of wind, but it nevertheless puts a cap on the chaos.