Sunday, March 2, 2014

THREE...EXTREMES (Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike, 2004, Asia)

A trinity of terror, a grimoire of grotesqueries, and revelry of repulsion makes this association of agony a delectable danse macabre. Three Asian filmmakers contribute short fiction, sharing a common vein of horror and visceral dread that is a contagion of subversive delight.

DUMPLINGS (Fruit Chan): Christopher Doyle’s gorgeous cinematography captures an apathetic actress who is past her prime: though carrying the stolid dignity of middle age, Mei is relegated to the doldrums of a listless marriage and spent career. She visits a seemingly young woman whose recipe for eternal youth is impregnated in her supple dumplings. Chan is able to create tension with a nervous zeal as Mei becomes trapped by her own desires, and obsessed by her own temporary beauty. The narrative’s hook is engaging and fulfilling, imbued with a delicious fancy of aborted treats. When Mei’s addictive umbilicus is terminated…she must devour her own. Final Cut: (B+)

CUT (Park Chan-wook): A young and successful film director becomes part of a psychopathic parable, now the main character in a gruesome novelty act as an invisible extra now has final cut. Park blurs the line between cinema and reality, showing the fictional set and director’s home as host to this horror, subverting structural perspectives by pulling focus from narrative conventions. A mixture of the four humours and humor, the director is punished for being a good and humble man, rich and celebrated for his work, while the vile actor is a cold-blooded murderer who blames the world for his woes, and finds cold comfort in corrupting this honest man. The set design is lavish, imaginative, and graphically revealing as minute by minute the director’s wife, a pianist, has her fingers chopped off until he (the director) chokes a small child to death. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men…and women. Final Cut: (B+)

BOX (Takashi Miike): Kyoko is a lonely writer who hides away in a dilapidated apartment, suffering a recurring nightmare of being buried alive in a small box. Miike builds intensity by conjuring forth an atmosphere of ghostly visuals and haunting childhood echoes, as Kyoko is burdened with a fiery guilt and fatherly penitence. With allusions to incest and sibling rivalry, Miike’s complex story doesn’t offer up any obstinate answers but lets the mystery deepen while gravel taps nervously upon a box…being slowly buried in the cold hard ground. Final Cut: (B)