One of the hallmarks of the Udine Far East Film Festival
recently held from April 21-29 is "Horror Day"-- with back to back films screened from morning till midnight, the bewitching hour. This year's selection was topped by Miike Takeshi's Imprint
, a contribution to the Master of Horrors
TV series that was banned by Showtime. The film was screened on opening day, and is a spine tingling story of an American journalist who returns to buy out his favorite prostitute but she is long gone. Do you want to know what happened to her? "Why do so many people search for the truth" warns the woman who will help him to unravel the mystery. That is exactly what I think every time I look at a horror film-- why do I want to know what is going to happen.
Horror compels and Horror from Asia is celebrating success after sucess since The Ring
is complete with writhing torture scenes and costumes and make up which are visually stunning. In one of the most heavily attended press conferences of the festival Takeshi said that we should bring our children to see Imprint, although he was reluctant to bring his own mother. The decision to ban the film had to do with imagery about the unborn. Takeshi remarked that folks wouldnt have taken such an interest in the film if it hadnt been for censorship.
A subgenre screened the previous day may shed some light on Takeshi's work. The Japanese 19th century mystery writer Edogawa Rampo who fashioned his name after Edgar Allan Poe is the muse for another provocative genre Rampo Noir
, or "ero-guro," grotesque eroticism. Sato Hisayasu's The Caterpillar (Imomushi)
concerns a war victim whose arms and legs have been severed and who commands his wife to further torture him for sexual pleasure. Sato told me that "Japan is our mother - we are taken such good care of in swaddling cotton that we need to crush this dependency." The explanation seems to fit Sato and Takeshi's work well.
Crawling Bugs (Mushi)
, by Kaneko Atsushi, is probably the most reminiscent of the work of Edgar allen Poe. The cult actor Tadanobu Asano plays an obsessive compulsive with skin allergies who strangles an actress, and uses her body to create an artwork. In his mind the background , taken from a portrait off the wall of his dermatologist, is a kitschy space with white lights in an overflowing garden. In actuality the decomposing art is in his decrepit apartment. A film which definitely qualifies as horror.
Last year the horror selections featured several undead women in white dresses, this year it was children.
When it comes to Asian horror, the ritualistic domain of the spirit world compels. The screening of The Imp
, the 1981 landmark film billed as a Taoist Ghostbuster directed by Dennis Yu was the inspiration for Leste Chen's The Heirloom
from Taiwan - both shown on horror day. In The Imp A geomancer skilled in Feng Shui tries to rescue the newlyweds Ah Kan and Yan, from a child demon that wants to be reincarnated as their newborn. To exorcize the little monster elaborate rituals are conducted involving the placement of yellow markers in strategic places.
In Chen's The Heirloom
, a whole family has been buying fetuses for years to turn into demons - and have gotten wealthy. The Heirloom
features the man who inherits it all Jason Chang. The film has excellent choreography and set design despite that it didn't cost that much explains Chen , particularly with Terri Kwan in a production of Orpheus and Eurydice, with a surprise ending reminiscent of The Imp
Choi Equan, educated at the Korean Film School and the San Francisco Art Institute, sets his homoerotic tale of suspense, Voice
, in an all-girls school. In the music room are portraits of European masters of music, a sort of chamber of horrors. The director told me he chose the San Francisco Art Institute because of its emphasis on non narrative cinema. Choe said that he is not interested in the ancient Asian tales of the supernatural. He wanted to make a psychological tale of intrigue. The time span is a matter of days, and then a month. A depressed teacher with vocal problems initially appears to be behind the death of a young student, felled by a piece of sheet music. Or is she the undead? Both Choe's and Chens film are visually stunning and hand crafted horror tales. Both have an unexpected twist which is crucial for horror.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Udine Italy
© 2006 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/06
Udine Far East Film Festival 8, Italy - Report 2