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With the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival coming soon, I’m reminded of a film I saw there last year - My Little Princess by Eva Ionesco. I am a huge fan of Isabelle Huppert, and will pretty much see a film just because she’s in it. So when I saw the trailer for My Little Princess, I was excited. It promised to be cinematic eye candy at the very least, with Huppert’s character swathed in long gowns and fur stoles. Not to mention the luscious red lips and bleached blond hair. Newcomer Anamaria Vartolomei rivaled Huppert with her disturbingly mature, Lolita-esque look. Vartolomei was only ten years old when the film was shot. 

No fault to Huppert or Vartolomei, as they gave stunning performances against an incredibly rich and decadent backdrop, but I felt the movie was all surface, no substance. Sometimes I’m happy with that - everyone loves a mindless romp once in a while, but in this context, I needed more.

The core of the film is about love and hate, and the complicated relationship between mother and daughter. It’s about madness and exploitation. The mother (Hanna), a selfish artist trying to make a name for herself, sees an opportunity in her daughter (Violetta), and starts photographing her. Violetta, lacking the tools to protect herself, and intoxicated by the attention her mother now gives her, becomes a marionette for her mother’s amusement. It’s unsettling to witness Violetta’s transformation from an innocent girl to a highly sexualized work of art. 

Despite this, the movie is filmed with a sense of detachment as if the audience were simply witnessing a spectacle. We are kept at a distance from what is happening and Ionesco offers no commentary or judgement. In that, the film lacks genuine emotion. Maybe Ionesco needed this distance to be able to tell her story, but in the end, it left me wanting. 

Love Exposure (or Love Explosion?)

There is so much awesome in this film. And really, who wouldn’t want to watch a 4-hour film about upskirt photography? Catholic ninja upskirt photography. With nunchucks!

It’s actually a bit hard to believe this film exists. Oh, praise the Japanese. Apparently it was originally 6 hours long and was trimmed to a lean 4 hours upon request of the producers. Ok, I jest. Not so lean. But I was really engaged for the first three hours. It only finally started to lose me when it hit midnight and we were still an hour and a bit from the end. Up until then, though, I was fully committed and in awe of what I was seeing, as were my fellow watchers, my husband and our friend, Christy. 

I want to offer some kind of synopsis for this film. Entice you further to see it - to invest those precious hours in it, because honestly it’s worth it - so here goes…I’ll try not to spoil the surprise.  

Chapter 1: Young boy (Yu) loses the love of his life, his mother, and is left alone with his devoutly Catholic father. The father, a priest, insists Yu confess to his sins, but Yu believes he is good and thus has no sins. The father insists, so Yu makes up some sins. His father knows he’s lying, so Yu sets out to commit some real sins. This is when he falls into the street gang of upskirt photographers, operating outside of the law. Insert fighting montage here. Oh, and did I mention Yu is convinced the woman of his dreams is the Virgin Mary? And that they’ll marry, and he’ll know her when he sees her.

Chapter 2: Yu catches the interest of a weird cult church and its nasty lead recruiter, Aya. This Chapter was bloody and amazing, and reminded me a lot of Kill Bill. Aya is seriously fucked up and has a hate-on for the penis. That’s all I’m going to say. While Yu is being pursued by Aya, he sees his Virgin, Yoko (you’ll get to know her name really well, because he yells it A LOT). Only problem - Yu meets Yoko while dressed as a woman, and Yoko falls for Yu’s female alter-ego instead. It’s complicated.

Chapter 3: I think I was still awake by this time (albeit a wee bit high). I think this is when Yu kidnaps Yoko and the real love story begins… what love story doesn’t start with religious fanaticism and kidnapping?

Chapter 4: Yu gets committed to the psych ward because he’s convinced he’s actually his female character. You know, the one that Yoko fell in love with. Yoko is taken away by Aya, so Yoko may fully commit to the church.

The end: Will Yu wake up in time to discover that he is not a she and that he must rescue Yoko from the cult church or lose her forever? 

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Yu enters some kind of Bukake competition, and there’s a crazy lady that marries the priest and adopts Yoko. Oh, and lots of panties. Strawberries always win, friends.

Have I explained it well enough? No? Well, you should see it. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. 

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