Saturday, 22 March 2014


In bending the boundary between reality and fantasy, Sono Sion has found himself, as any pragmatic director would, bending further toward the latter than the former. And who could blame him, since that is evidently where his talents take root? It's always encouraging to witness a filmmaker expanding their repertoire, and therefore always deflating when one winds up wishing, overall, that they hadn't bothered. The barmy premise of Why Don't You Play in Hell?, coupled with the ambitious way in which Sono realises it, would qualify as an expansion for almost any director, though. Yet where Sono has ventured anew is in attempting to infuse the fantasy that comes so naturally to him with a grounding in the real world, or at least his version of it. He supposes to combine fact and fiction into one highly meta force of its own, yet in truth these two elements repel one another, and the cumulative force is weak, Sono's devotion to it distracting. He is more comfortable, and thus so are we, when focusing his efforts on one specific element at a time, or just one specific element alone: the fiction he has created with signature verve. Much of Why Don't You Play in Hell? is about characters with far-fetched aspirations or extreme sensibilities, so it is a veritable relief when Sono affords them chances to realise these. His own aspirations are neither as groundbreaking nor as compelling as he appears to believe, and he makes an utter hash of planting his action in a solid foundation (the film's bewildering first hour is just dull and confusing), and thus little interest can be mustered in any of his affectations, no matter how earnest he may be in applying them.