Japanese cult writer-director Sion Sono started out as prolific poet until he took up filmmaking. He earned worldwide critical acclaim for his film "Love Exposure" — a four-hour epic that tackles life's biggest issues: love, death, sex, revenge, religion and up-skirt panty photography. His latest is "Cold Fish," which screens at Cinefamily on Aug. 6 and 7. It's a tale of a tropical fish salesman who’s drawn into the dark orbit of a charismatic, middle-aged serial killer, based on a true story. He talked with Off-Ramp’s Lainna Fader on his last trip to L.A.
I was first introduced to Sono's films when I worked at Cinefamily a few years ago. Cinefamily's programmers received a handful of screeners from the New York Asian Film Festival to review and I hung out with them and watched them all. "Love Exposure" was my favorite by far. Since then, I've watched every Sono film I could find—including now cult classic "Suicide Club" — and "Love Exposure" is probably still my favorite of his, though I love all his work.
"'Amanojaku' in Japanese is exactly what I am," Sono said. "How shall I put it in English? I can think of it only in Japanese. If the content of "Suicide Club" was something people would like—if everyone else was making movies similar to "Suicide Club," I would have been making love romance movies. I just like to do things contrary to others."
Sono pushes forward with his perverse sense of humor, tales of brutal murders—you'll find many scenes of human flesh being gleefully diced up in "Cold Fish" — and more nutjob characters than ever.
The controversial director has also called Yasujiro Ozu — one of Japan's most revered filmmakers — the anti-Christ, the anti-God. "He is too much of a "god" in Japanese movie history, and the history cannot be refreshed unless we become anti-Ozu. I have nothing personal against him, but I have to declare I am anti-Ozu in order to move forward," he said.