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  Love & Peace Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
Year: 2015
Director: Sion Sono
Stars: Hiroki Hasegawa, Kumiko Asô, Toshiyuki Nishida, Motoki Fukami, Miyuki Matsuda, Gen Hoshino, Inuko Inuyama, Megumi Kagurazaka, Ayaka Morita, Kazuki Namioka, Ichirô Ogura, Eita Okuno, Tôru Tezuka, Ikue Ôtani, Daikichi Sugawara, Erina Mano
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Weirdo, Fantasy, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Ryoichi Suzuki (Hiroki Hasegawa) is an office drone now, but in his past he had the opportunity to make it really big in showbusiness as a rock star. However, when he struck out on his own with three solo concerts he was humiliated when nobody turned up to hear him, and ever since he has become a national joke, with television pundits using references to his failure as an example of how bad Japan can get, and what they should rise above now the 2020 Olympics are around the corner. At work, it is just as bad, with his colleagues making endless fun of him, apart from Yuko (Kumiko Asô) who feels sorry for him. But Ryo does not have any friends until he notices a little turtle...

When our hapless hero buys this tiny turtle as a pet, not only does he have a companion now, but he also has a great, big metaphor to contend with, as the reptile comes to embody all the man's hopes and dreams in a harsh world that cares nothing for him. As this was a Sion Sono film, you would expect the protagonist at least to embark on a bloodthirsty rampage, or give into perverted passions, but nothing of the sort occurred, for this was that rarest of things, one of his family movies. Yes, there was nothing in Love & Peace that was enormously objectionable though if you thought that would see the director tone down his wild imagination you would be in error, as this was as nutty as usual.

Just less violent and sexual. If anything, it was oddly sweet as a generosity of spirit exhibited itself when Ryo's sincere love of his turtle, named Pikadon after a news report on the nickname for the nuclear blasts at the end of the Second World War, brought him to an elevated position in society. This was not exactly a musical, but songs were performed and music was a theme, happening when the protagonist gets another chance at stardom when in a fit of anger after a particularly bad day, he flushes his pet down the toilet, immediately regretting it (the small creature playing this role did seem to be put through the wringer somewhat - no, not literally) and leading to a total breakdown.

The fact that the community around him revels in his crisis does not help, but here was where Sion gave him a break, and on encountering a rock band he improvises a paean to Pikadon with, he is improbably given a record contract, gathers legions of fans, and transforms into a superstar, Hasegawa also transforming his performance in a remarkable display of versatility. But Yuko remains, she knows where he came from, and wishes Ryo would remember her as well, adding a point of poignancy. All that said, you're wondering what happened to the turtle, aren't you? Here's where things get very strange, as down in the sewer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-style, he meets up with an alcoholic magician who lives there and uses his spells to improve the lot of various abandoned animals and toys.

Thanks to "Pa" (Toshiyuki Nishida, or Pigsy from cult TV show Monkey), they all have intelligence and life, but are stuck being his companions waiting for his promises of setting them free so all their wishes can come to pass. There was an element of Toy Story about these sewer scenes, apparently designed to appeal to the younger viewer, though just as easily baffling viewers of any age, and that's before Pa dresses up as Santa Claus and tries to act out his own Christmas fantasy. Somewhere along the way, Pikadon, now magically bigger, is given a spell to turn into the director's real interest, a kaiju movie, so in somewhat predictable fashion this climaxed with a huge turtle smashing up the Shinjuku district as the now impossible Ryo plays a massive concert. Somehow one was a commentary on the other, though this was frankly, a bit of a leap, but not so much that it would lose an appreciative audience: you could, it was true, simply accept it all at face value as an eccentric Yuletide fable where what you want for Christmas may not be what you need.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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