A highlight of this past summer’s 2014 New York Asian Film Festival was the deceptively-named WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?, which has a great title for a horror movie but which quickly turns out to be something very different. I was lucky enough to see it last year, and I loved it, and I guarantee you will love it, and this is what I wrote about it for my year-end top-ten:
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is maybe, probably, most likely the most jubilant movie-about-movies ever made. Almost every prominent director seems to eventually end up making a movie directly or indirectly about making movies — from Clint Eastwood (BRONCO BILLY) to Spike Lee (SHE HATE ME), from George Romero (KNIGHTRIDERS) to Martin Scorsese (THE AVIATOR), from Paul Thomas Anderson (BOOGIE NIGHTS) to John Carpenter (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS) — and now here comes a self-reflexive maniacal masterwork by Japan’s un-pin-down-able Sion Sono.
The story centers around a long-running feud between two factions of violent gangsters. Aside from war in the streets, the head of one mob is dedicated to making his daughter (the very young, incredibly appealing Fumi Nikaido) a movie star. Towards that end, he recruits a group of would-be filmmakers calling themselves “the Fuck Bombers” to make it happen. One of them falls in love with the leading lady, which is problem enough, but the gang war is escalating, although ultimately, it provides the perfect setting for a very realistically bloody movie.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? runs over two hours but every single minute is full of boistrous energy. It’s as wildly funny as any teen sex comedy and as gruesomely violent as any slasher movie — usually at the same exact time. The point, it seems, is that film-going and filmmaking becomes an obsession and a delirium, like love itself. Makes perfect sense to me.
– Jon Abrams.
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