Friday, January 7, 2011

Three Extremes (2004)

Three Extremes is a compilation of three mini-movies from directors Fruit Chan (Hong Kong) Changwook Park (Korea) and Takashi Miike (Japan).  I am a big fan of Park and Miike, but I have never previously seen any of Chan's work.  Looking forward to it.

Dumplings is from director Fruit Chan, starring Bai Ling as Mei (the cook) and Miriam Yeung as Mrs. Li, a retired actress looking to regain her youth.  She hears that Mei makes delicious and expensive dumplings that help women to look younger again.  She tries them, and does start to look a little younger, but the results are not fast enough for Mrs. Li.  As it turns out, her husband is sleeping with a much younger and more fun-loving woman, and Mrs. Li is looking to get back into his heart.

Mei insists that she has a better and more potent ingredient for the dumplings, but that Mrs. Li will have to wait until she is able to obtain it.  She does, and Mrs. Li snarfs them down in hopes to go back to the days of her youth and beauty.  But of course, these things have consequences and Mrs. Li finds herself dealing with a domino effect that she has created.  I definitely don't want to give away the dumpling ingredient, because it is pretty twisted.   I definitely liked this one.

Changwook Park's contribution is Cut, which is about a successful movie director who is filming a new movie about vampires.  However, there is an extra from all his movies who is out for some sort of revenge.  Apparently he's pissed off because this director is rich and successful with a beautiful wife, and the extra is poor and miserable and beats his family.

So he locks the director and his wife in a room, him tied to the wall, and her strapped to the piano.  In Saw-like fashion, he tells him that he will let his wife go if he kills someone in the room.  Unfortunately for him and his conscience, the someone is a little girl tied up on the couch.  The director and extra go back and forth for a while, making threats, confessions, and the like.  Park's signature twists are here as always, and this surprise is a good one. 

I'm starting to thing that Asian people are very afraid of children.  I'm not trying to make a broad generalization, but it just seems like are creepy children in so many Asian horror movies that I watch.  They crawl out of TVs, they make sexual advances at their fathers, they wear freaky paper bunny masks, and they yell Japanese at you through a staircase.

In Takashi Miike's The Box, Kyoko is a shy writer, who keeps having recurring dreams about being buried in a box.  She revisits her childhood, where she and her sister were contortionists in a circus.  Leading their act was a creeper in a Phantom of the Opera type masks.  One night after a performance, the creeper comes in to congratulate Shoko on a great performance and he gives her a necklace.  He walks past Kyoko, saying nothing.  Well, for childhood Kyoko, that is e-fucking-nough already.  It's insinuated that 10-year old Shoko and the man have a deeper relationship than just performing (Miike films have strange sexual undertones).  Kyoko decides to finally get her revenge.

Like most Miike films, this thing was really trippy.  This guy's got some kind of imagination, I will say that.  In my opinion, this wasn't as extreme as his other short, Imprint, and I didn't like it as much as his other full-length films.  It was just too weird and random and I sort of didn't know what was going on most of the time.  But it had beautiful shots and cinemotography, I just wish it would have gelled together a little more.  I think that's Miike's style though...always keeping you guessing.

Overall, I really like this compilation.  I would have to say that my favorite was Dumplings, followed by Cut, and then Box.  I read that they've made Dumplings into a full-length movie and I would definitely like to check that out.  Who knew that Bai Ling was a good actress, since she's such a joke here in the U.S.?