Category Archives: eastern

Dirty Maria * Takahisa Zeze * 1998

Dirty MariaI hate it when this happens, but I can’t find the original title of this film so/and I can’t find it on IMDb. In any case, Takahisa is supposedly one of the main directors in the so called Japanese “pink (eiga)” genre. I think this is my first encounter with it. The box promises something between soft porn and thriller with that Japanese twist, so I decided to give it a try. “Dirty Maria” begins promising with erotic / very soft porn scenes and a quite a lot of blood. The film develops more towards a twisted drama in which a man and a woman undertake a journey to a health resort high up in the mountains developing a strange relationship. “Dirty Maria” is interesting in the way that Japanese film differs notably from Western and this is a good example of that. The film is a little primitive and doesn’t keep the level it starts with, but overall this is definately not a bad watch. Perhaps I will try to get some other films from this director and/or the genre.
-2.5-

Yogen * Norio Tsuruta * 2004

premonition

Another Japanese horror/thriller. The director of “Kakashi” and “Ringu 0” does not bring much news. There is no curse in “Yogen”, but people get premonitions in various ways, premonitions of things to come shortly, of course the premonitions are about people dying. The persons getting the premonitions get some kind of decease. “Yogen” has the typical Jap horror atmosphere, nice and gloomy, but here without extremely dark scenes or frights. To make the film more interesting (?) the end become all blurry with shifting viewpoints and storylines every three seconds. This does have some kind of function, but I don’t think it is too well done. Oh well, “Yogen” is a nice film, but like “Kakashi”, just nice, nothing special.

Widmo * Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom * 2004

shutter

There was a time that I watched a lot of Asian horror. Since they are often alike, I don’t see much nowadays. Fortunately MTV continue their “Asia Mania” friday nights, so once in a while I can watch a film that I haven’t seen yet afterall. The Thai film “Widmo” (“Shutter”) is a variation on a theme, such as most other of such films. Two youngsters think that they are haunted by the spirit of a girl that they drove over from which accident they fled. “Widmo” has the typical dense atmosphere which is well done, also the creapy women are present, the droning sounds, evil spirits and the dark filming. “Widmo” is very enjoyable, but like said on IMDb: “great – but no revolution”.

Tetsuo: the iron man * Shinya Tsukamoto * 1988

A film like this can only come from Japan! It is a lot older than I expected when I rented it, but who cares? There are two Tetsuo’s, the “companion piece” is called “Tetsuo II: body hammer” and unlike this first part, it seems to be in colour. “Tetsuo I” opens brilliantly with a black and white complete over-the-top cutting in a style that holds the middle somewhere between David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and the nightmarish visions in “Pi”. “Tetsuo” tells the ‘story’ of a man who slowly turns into metal (a bloody process!), or does he? “Man” has disturbing visions of metal women tracing him through a nihilistic world of machines and dark scenes. All this is supported by industrial music and makes a great atmosphere. As the short film (only 1 hour) continues, the style reminds ‘hyper’ (extremely fast changing images, apparently photoshoots put on a filmtape), the story and images become more and more bizarre, but the surprise is gone. A fucked-up and sick mix of splatter horror, hallucinating darkness and cut-up story lines. Indeed something “like you’ve never seen before.”
What always irritates me in Japanese films is the terrible synchronising by the way. People screeming with their mouths shut and totally overdone sounds. This is quite terrible in this film.

Seom * Ki-Duk Kim * 2000

the isle

I bought two films by Kim Ki-Duk, this one and “Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom” which I will review as soon as I saw it. Kim Ki-Duk is a Korean director and his films are at least different from the usual Asian films that are so popular at the moment. I understood that the films are more in the vein of “Dolls” by Takeshi Kitano (reviewed elsewhere), a beautiful symphony of colours, images and symbols. “Seom” turns out to be indeed a film with marvelous images, but with an occasional “Odishon” (“Audition”)-like scene. People who know this film by Takashi Miike will know what I mean. “Seom” may not be that extreme, but I advise people with a sensitive stomach not to watch either film. This is only in a few scenes though. The film is about Hee-Jin who lets tiny boat-houses (or raft-houses) that are used by people for fishing, relaxation, receiving prostitues and commiting suicide. The non-speaking Hee-Jin has her eye on everything and sometimes violently interferes with what happens. The morning images of rafts tossing on the misty lake are beautiful (and so is Hee-Jin btw) and the overall atmosphere is strange and mysterious. You don’t want to try and find a real story or a descent ending though, because (like in other Asian films) you will not find it. A nice film and I am looking forward to see the other film of Kim Ki-Duk that I bought.

Die Salzmänner Von Tibet * Ulrike Koch * 1997

A nice film in which a camera team follows a group of Tibettans who are going to get salt from a frozen lake. The people are authentic inlanders with their ancient old language and customs, so you get a good idea of the original Tibetal culture very interwoven with their religious convictions.
This film played in the Dutch filmhouses until quite recently, but it is five years old aready.

Samsara * Nalin Pan * 2001

I like to watch a film like this every once in a while. Pan is also the director of a film about Ayurveda that I want to see some time. “Samsara” is one of those ‘Buddhistic films’ playing in a monastry high up in the Himalayas. Tashi is a monk who -like many others- was sent to a monastry at the age of five. Now being a young man he returns to the monastry after three years of meditation in a cave. Instead of having reached enlightenment, Tashi feels more attached to the illusionary world, having wet dreams and falling in love with the beautiful Pema. With the idea that even the prince of Kapilavastu only went to live an ascetic life after the age of 29, Tashi leaves the monastry to marry Pema and live the life of a farmer. When his former teacher dies, Tashi leaves his wife and son to return to the monastry. Pema then tells about he life of Siddharta, how also he has left his wife and his five-year-old son without saying goodbye and questioning whether Yashodhara has played in part in the Buddha’s enlightenment. A very nice and slowpaced film with beautiful images and a nice story about the collision between the lifes of monks and outside the monastries.

Ringu 0: Baasudei * Norio Tsuruta * 2000

After the tremendous succes of “Ringu” (an American remake even!) there was a sequel “Ringu 2” which I have yet to see (but will within the next days) and after the sequel there was a “prequel” “Ringu 0”. Chronologically this film comes before the original. There are several Ringu books that the films are based on, so however all these sequels are very Hollywoodish it is still somehow bearable. “Ringu 2” is by the original director, but “Ringu 0” is by the director of the wonderfull “Kakashi” (see elsewhere), but I found that out after I saw it, so I didn’t have too high hopes when I watched this film.

But, Ringu 0 proves to be about as good as the original. Not so dark in filming, but the same dense atmosphere, dark sounds that makes you definately have to see this on DVD and a slow building-up towards a great ending. The story is that of the girl from the well/drain that caused the curse. You can see how this shy girl moves to Tokio, makes problems that she can’t help and how she ends in the drain. The film is wonderfully made that you keep wondering what how when and especially why upto the last minutes. If you liked the original, see this one, if you haven’t seen any “The Ring” yet, be sure to see the originals!

Ringu 2 * Hideo Nakata * 1999

After the succesfull Ringu, Nakata made a sequel and later a ‘prequel’ was made by another director. I thought Ringu 1 is okay, but I suppose my expectations where too high, Ringu 0 was better than expected, but 2 is just alright. The story continues where part 1 ends. The people who found Sadako in the well are lost of insane and new people investigate the curse. Nice to see if you saw the other two, but the least of the three. Oh, my advice: watch them in the order they were made! That is Ringu, Ringu 2 and then Ringu 0.

Ring: Spiral * George Lida * 1999

For those who still don’t believe it: “this is the film that was shot at the same time as the original Ring and is therefor the only real Ring 2”. I had heard of this ‘original Ring 2’ before which was regarded so terrible that a descent follow-up had to be made. I can’t find this title in the Internet Movie Database. The info above comes from the internetpage of the videostore.

This Ring is indeed the least of the four Japanese films, but still not as horrible as some will make you believe. It is more of a drama which very slowly evolves towards the dark thriller that we came to watch the Ring ‘series’ for. The story comes after the first Ring of course. The dead doctor isn’t dead and flashbacks go back to Ring 0. No need to tell you about the killer-videotape I suppose? Just watch it if you have already seen the rest. When I see the English version of the first Ring, I have seen them all…