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Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Sion Sono's love letter to Japanese cinema would be heartbreaking if it wasn't so much fun.

Why Don't You Play in Hell?
Sion Sono (Japan, Midnight Madness)


Friday, September 13, 11:59 p.m.
Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard Street East)

Saturday, September 14, 3:45 p.m.
Scotiabank 1 (259 Richmond Street West)

A guerrilla film club’s ten-year pact to make a masterpiece is realized when a yakuza boss employs them to make a movie starring his former child-star daughter in Sion Sono’s overlong but wildly entertaining Why Don’t You Play in Hell?. While relatively restrained by Sono’s standards (his previous films include The Suicide Club, Strange Circus, and Cold Fish), it still has plenty of jaw-dropping moments for adventurous filmgoers.

Would-be director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) prays to the Movie God for his big break, never suspecting it will take a pair of rival gang leaders, a vengeful mob housewife, a massive samurai sword battle, and an excruciatingly earwormy toothpaste jingle to make his dreams come true. Hirata’s increasingly crazy journey becomes a tribute to the power of cinema as an art form, and a critique of the vanity and greed that threaten to bring about its extinction. With its absurdist set pieces, rapid-fire tone changes, and gore that would raise eyebrows in an abattoir, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is by any measure one hell of a ride.

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