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DARK HORROR FROM JAPAN


…exactly

One of the many reasons that horror films from Japan are so effective is because they often go to the darkest places of the human psyche — places where we don’t want to go. The only film visionary who comes close to dragging an audience into such dark territory would be David Cronenberg. One could go on for days analyzing why Japan art can be so very twisted, conflicted and confused. From sociological to the political there a million theories — and many of them carry some merit. One thing that is for certain, in the most repressed environments — fantasies can often take themselves to the level of obesession and fetish.

In 1969 when Masumura Yasuzo brought a controversial 1930’s Japanese horror novel by E. Rampo he altered it to match his own twisted view of sexual relationships and the new found freedoms of artistic expression of the erotic. The film, BLIND BEAST, remains every bit as odd, twisted and shocking as it must have been upon its original release. Certainly exploration of S&M, mysogynistic fantasy and gore were nothing new at the time. However, audiences were not prepared to see great production values, acting and intelligence brought to the table with these sorts of things.

This controversial and often banned film was released to DVD last year. I finally got around to watching it thinking it might make for an interesting spotlight for the RI Film Festival next year. However, I think it might be just a bit much for this festival. But, it is a film that refuses to be ignored. A bored and somewhat plain model has taken to posing for S&M fantasy pictures for a photographer. She seems to do this not just for the money but because she doesn’t feel she has anything else she can offer to the world of art than her own humiliation. Do we have a doctor in the house?

A stunted blind artist who has long been obsessed with the “feel” of the female body decides that he must kidnap this woman because, to his fingers, she is the most perfect specimen of human flesh he has ever felt. Masumura presents the audience with some of the oddest set designs I’ve ever seen. The victim/model wakes up in a dark warehouse which we soon discover is filled with the life works of this insane blind man — who, with the assistance of his scary mother has spent years sculpting giant figures of female bodies and body parts. For a good 20 minutes we see a blind man chase a woman thru the curves and indentions of giant female anatomy. …someone has “mommy” issues.

After a series of failed escapes the victim finally gives up and surrenders to the blind man’s “project” to sculpt a real “life size” version of a woman based on her body. It is never quite clear if this will be “art” for public consumption or for some other “personal” use. Not sure I wanted to know. However, thanks to a fairly dense script we soon see the victim become a willing participant in the insane desires of her captor. After the sculpture is completed, the victim and the kidnapper soon become what Bryan Ferry would call “slaves to love” …or at least to their own desires. In the darkness of the warehouse amid the horrific sculptures the two begin to explore every possible angle of the human body — we see this represented thru the giant sculpted bodies upon which the two writhe and explore. In the madness the woman finds that she loses her own vision and is obsessed with letting her fingers do the “watching” and “exploring” of her kidnapper turned lover. Food is no longer of interest and ordinary orgasm is no longer enough.

And of course, we are lead into an exploration of S&M at its darkest levels. While this is certainly not an unexpected turn, Masumura and his actors manage to cause our mouths to drop with each trun of the plot.

…you know things are about to take a VERY odd turn when subtitles like this pop on to the screen.

In the event that you should decide to see this disturbing, effective and hopelessly sick film — I will not give away any further spoilers. However, suffice to say that Japanese film makers were creating film art that was going places that we in the west would never think to go. …And, I am fairly certain that is a good thing. However, one can’t deny the impact of this film and the intensity of the psychology with which this “horror” film is presented.

I was chatting with a friend about this movie and whether or not I should suggest it as a film for next years film festival in RI which will feature a side bar of Asian cinema. She was excited to hear about this movie and has already ordered it from NetFlix, but I have to wonder — when does a film stop being entertainment and start being something much darker? I think this film could be one of those marks where we take a wrong turn. Not for everyone, but certainly worth a look if you’ve a strong interest in the darker side of human nature and the psychology of S&M. …but not much fun. I did think it a good film, but I sort of wish I had just watched my DVD of YENTL instead.

View this one at your own risk.

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September 11, 2005. Uncategorized.

3 Comments

  1. Jon replied:

    Dark Horror from Japan is the nickname for my cock! Heh, ok, I’ll stop acting like a junior high student.

    So many great horror/sci fi flicks from Japan. I watched Ichi the Killer again the other night. Now that is fucked up and completely enthralling

  2. matt replied:

    Jon — LOL! ICHI THE KILLER is awesome! I’ve seen that film far too many times! Have you ever seen VISITOR Q? …thus far that wins my prize for J Horror going two or three steps too far and yet I could not look away.

    I love my movies from Japan, Korea and France.

    …and tv comedy from Britain.

  3. Karyn replied:

    See. This is why I stick to my… what does he call it? … fluff. Pap. Schlocky pneumatic entertainment.

    I’ve got enough darkness in here.

    🙂

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