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‘Bad Film’ for bad people: Sion Sono looks back at Tokyo in 1995

'Bad Film' by Sion Sono
‘Bad Film’ by Sion Sono

TOKYO (TR) – Nearly two decades ago have passed since art-house helmer Sion Sono shot his latest release, “Bad Film” — a film that primarily stars members of a performance and activist group in Tokyo.

Following a screening on Saturday at the Tokyo Filmex festival, the director said that the current political climate will impact the way film goers view the delayed release of the pic, which includes a China-Japan theme.

“Today’s audience will receive it in a more realistic way, considering the ongoing territorial dispute (over the Senkaku Islands with China), because the atmosphere of the time is reflected,” said Sono at the Yurakucho Asahi Hall.” If it had been released at that time it would have been a sci-fi film, but I think today it will be seen in a more realistic way by Japanese society.”

“Bad Film” was made with the group Tokyo Gagaga, which was formed by Sono in 1993. Shot two years later in Hi-8 format, the pic profiles the group as it engages in clashes in the areas near rail stations of Tokyo’s Chuo Line, with the focal point being Koenji Station as it is threatened to be taken over by Chinese.

“At the time, the Japanese film industry was full of films for goodie-goodies,” Sono said. “I wanted to something completely against that — a film that is not an A-student film but something that is bad.”

In recent years, the murder spree in “Cold Fish” (2010) and voyeuresism of “Love Exposure” (2008) have maintained Sono’s presence at festivals around the world.

In assembling Tokyo Gagaga, Sono had taken a break from film making. He had already released “Bicycle Sighs” (1991) and “The Room” (1992). “The group itself is a very matter of fact group,” he said. “It was pure activism for us; there was no ideology, no religion, no philosophy. I wanted to include them in the film but not make it as an exact record.”

'Love Exposure'
‘Love Exposure’

For the project, Sono had to edit 150 hours of footage. The film’s release was delayed for financial reasons, and he was only able to manage to complete the editing process this year. Yet he said the fundamental concept had not changed since the shooting.

“The footage is the same,” he said. “There is a limit to what you can do with editing and sounds. Of course, I don’t know what would have happened had I edited it at the time.

“But the film is not mine alone,” the director added. “It is a record of the presence and passion of the people who participated. So I don’t think that has changed in the post-production process of today.”

Sono is not completely committed to continuing in the film business. He said he might stop again to try something else. “Cinema is one of many forms of expression,” he said.

An 8-disc DVD set (“Sion Sono Early Works: Before Suicide”) containing 10 films made prior to “Suicide Club” (2001) was released on November 2.