The anthology movie. Something that seems to have gone out of fashion. It used to be far more commonplace, there are certainly a number of very worthy black and white British Horror movies that took this route. Usually tied together by a group of people travelling somewhere, all telling their story.
Well “Three…Extremes” is not like that. It is a collection of three short films but some of the cream of Asian movie-making. There is no-interlinking narrative, just three rather marvellous little gems.
Technically a follow-up to “Three”, things get a little confused as THAT movie was marketed in the West as a sequel to this one. But no matter, as again there are no links. What makes this little collection unusual is that all three movies are quite fabulous.
“Box” was the piece that got me to own this movie. At the time I would have gotten just about anything Takashi Miike put out (and there is a lot), but I remember being really disappointed by this segment on my first viewing. The problem with Miike is that he puts out so much material, that there is a lot that is sub-par, and even within some of his films vary wildly in their quality. I actually prefer his more subdued works, which show much more control over his ideas.
So I was delighted when re-watching this recently to find it was rather brilliant.
It is a heady mix of dream sequences, flashbacks, unreliable narration and symbolism. The story is ostensibly about a girl (Kyoko Hasegawa)that accidently killed her twin sister as a youngster in a fit of jealousy, about an incestuous father, and about the pain of carrying such guilt around. The ending is a bit of a weird-out moment, which you can choose to take literally, or maybe just as symbolism.
It is quite beautiful to look at, shots are composed in a deliciously off-kilter manner. As an introduction to one of Japan’s premier filmmakers, this is a great place to start.
Park Chan-wook gets a lot of love on this blog. His entry here “Cut” is a distillation of everything he does so well. The camera-work is amazing, and he packs more into his 45 minutes than most directors manage in 2 or 3 complete movies. We get a film-within-a-film, flashbacks, a high-class threat and some fabulous acting (with Lee Byung-hun showing yet another great display).
Yes, it is just an extended set piece, but he manages to rack up the tension masterfully.
Maybe all it lacks is a satisfactory conclusion, but it is such a fantastic ride, I can forgive that.
I have to confess I have never seen anything else by Fruit Chan. His segment “Dumplings” is great though. In fact it is so good, that an extended feature was made.
What amazes me is that when I first watched the movie, that I was shocked by the reveal, but upon a second viewing, it is so obvious, that it probably was not meant to be a surprise reveal.
Bai Ling (the Chinese actress you never knew that you knew – she guest stars in many US Dramas, most obviously in an episode of “LOST”) delights a woman who makes the titular Dumplings. These Dumplings revive your youth. But what is inside them makes them rather unpalatable….
The film looks amazing (to be fair, the quality of all three films is outstanding) and of course this is due to the always great Chris Doyle. But the real star here is in the sound. Listen to Miriam Yeung eat those Dumplings, and I will guarantee you will feel uneasy.
In short – you want to try out some Asian Cinema, on the more extreme and challenging side of the tracks? Then this is a great place to start.