The visionary Japanese’s auteur responsible for the world’s first battle rap musical, the insanely wonderful Tokyo Tribes, Sion Sono returns to our screens with an even more imaginative tale of fame, fortune and wish fulfilment combining a rock biopic with a rampaging monster horror and a whole lot more in the hilarious and heartfelt Love and Peace.
Allegedly taking the writer director 25 years to make the film follows Ryoichi (Hiroki Hasegawa from Godzilla: Resurgence) a meek and mild mannered ex-rock star who now works as an office clerk in a musical instruments company.
Bullied by his coworkers and in a constant state of fear of the outside worlds awareness of his failure he fantasises of being back on top and winning the love of fellow office worker Yuko (Kumiko Aso) a girl nearly as shy and awkward as him.
Buying a turtle on impulse the tiny pet, who he names Pikadon, becomes his only friend in the whole world and the keeper of his deepest secrets and dreams that is until he flushes it down a public lavatory after being shammed and mocked at work when he brings it in.
Wracked with guilt and grief Ryoichi turns his pain into a pop song which through a crazed series of events catapults him back into the limelight and towards his goal of being the most popular singer in the country and playing the biggest stadium in the city.
Undenounced to Ryoichi his triumphs are all due to his reptilian friend who now resides in the sewer world named Lost and Found Heaven where talking toys and pets are taken care of by Pa (Toshiyuki Nishida) a kindly old drunk with magical pills that have gifted Pikadon the power to grant his owners wishes.
As Ryoichi’s career blossoms the miniature turtle grows in size with the fame hungry stars greed for power and popularity warping his personality in the same grotesque way his abandoned pet’s body is mutated in stature leading to a monster ending where not only dreams but a whole city is destroyed all for love and peace.
Massively imaginative Love and Peace packs more style and substance into 2 hours than most directors achieve in an entire career jumping genres from comedy to drama, Christmas fantasy to tragic romance, rock musical to monster movie and so much more.
Mashing together these elements that in other films would never work such as the tragic twisted Toy Story set up of abandoned animals and brought to life robots every part meshes to make a much greater whole.
In fact these sections reminiscent of early Tim Burton or Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the brilliant Christmas story imbedded inside the narrative forms one of the most touching Xmas tales ever captured on film when the final reveal takes place in Pa’s home for lost pets and play things.
Although named without knowing the word Pikadon comes from the atom bomb with Pika meaning brilliant light and Don meaning boom and it is this misguided moniker that gains Ryoichi his status as an influential and important protest singer even though his smash hit, dubbed Love and Peace by his management, is actually about flushing his turtle down the toilet.
It is this surprising combination of seemingly throwaway random comedic events with serious social comment that gives Sion Sono’s film so much power slipping in this thought provoking moments to his bizarre story dismantling fickle fame and the sick side of success while still offering a hugely entertaining fantasy to the audience.
Hiroki Hasegawa is excellent shifting his performance from frenetic terror filled failure to arrogant Bowie styled superstar seamlessly painting a picture of a complex character who loses sight of his real passion and goals when money and celebrity come calling.
With its Kaiju conclusion featuring the cutest giant killer monster you will have seen in a long time Love and Peace is a movie that really must be seen to be believed so go see it now.