Article by Gerson Seregni
If you’ve read Nicanor Parra, famous Chilean writer known for his creation of ‘Anti Poetry’, you suddenly knew what it meant to go against the grain. What does it look like to live deliciously when you are just doing the opposite of nature? Now, try to transfer this philosophy into real life, and you will find out that art is the perfect companion for this ordeal. The silver screen is a perfect channel to be trapped in this vortex of words and thoughts. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that Asia was the best continent for combining art and insanity, going against the grain of the films we watch in the west. Is your curiosity piqued? Here is a list of some bizarre Asian films that you cannot miss:
Dumplings (Hong Kong)
Japan and South Korea are usually thought to dominate the Asian film scene, so I’d like to start with a pleasant surprise from Hong Kong. A movie that will push your buttons, it will show you how far can a human go to reverse the aging process. In Hong Kong there’s a lady who can help, with her (in)famous home-made rejuvenation dumplings that contain a mysterious ingredient she ships from mainland China. Immeasurably grotesque and morally shocking, Dumplings is literally the modern, Asian version of Snow White. This controversial flick will put you off your eating habits for a while after its horrible revelations.
Hands down, the clear winner of this list. The story lasts one hour, the aftermath probably years. It’s about a man whose flesh is turning into iron, do I need to continue? If you are seeking harmony then this is not recommended for you. Tetsuo, in all its weirdness, is a classic that stands alone. It combines the elements of horror, metamorphosis, mechanics and gory bits in a film that has to be seen a few times to be appreciated. The combining of organic matter and iron together with a psychotic, loud sound, and the pacing that varies from a lento to an allegrissimo, make this movie a very eccentric piece that reminds me, in a way, with the obsession Mozart had for ”scatology.”
Any ‘80s Horror B-movie fans here? This one’s for you. House started out a horror movie, and became something more. A classic example of 80s comedy horror, the main character finds herself battling odd demons, zombies and flying monsters. The focus here is on a house that is haunted to the point of being a portal into the underworld, of sorts. Silly makeup also makes for crazy character inclusions. If you like Lucio Fulci’s and Dario Argento’s masterpieces, then this is the right one for you, the only difference being that the real enemy is the titular house.
SARS Wars (Thailand)
Let’s move on to a funnier type of weirdness. Thailand offers this peculiar zombie flick that recalls the oldest Romero, with a dash of humour and some similarities with Kill Bill, filled with gory animated sequences. Two zombie-killing heroes have to try and rescue a beautiful girl from a gang and then must team up with the gang to fight the voracious zombies. Despite the important cast, the movie fared poorly in Thailand, but obtained cult film status in Europe. You won’t find a line to follow here, it is basically nonsense most of the time, but hey, as Roald Dahl said, ”A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest man.” So don’t worry if at the end of the film your response is, ”Why am I even watching this?”
I Saw the Devil (South Korea)
Kim Jee-Woon, who recently directed Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand, is one of my favourite visionaries behind a camera as he varies his stories from comedy to deep horror. This flick tackles the immense power of all-consuming revenge in a thriller that doesn’t know when to stop. A dangerous and psychotic serial killer with a penchant for human flesh is on the loose, the lines between good and evil are blurred and the audience is here exposed to a desperate revenge situation. Its brutality gets inside of your skin and holds you tight to your seat. All the scenes have an impeccable timing, with a rhythm in crescendo.
The Good, the Bad,
the Weird (South Korea)
And here again is Kim Jee-Won. This take on the classic 1966 Western is a ton of fun to watch. The cinematography is colourful, the action is furious and it all goes at a wonderfully brisk pace. For all Spaghetti Western fans, this one doesn’t share the same pathos of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but you need a big set of heavy balls to borrow a piece of cinema history, experiment on it like on a guinea pig, colour it like a Miró’s painting wall, and rebuild it like a Replicant with Tourette’s syndrome, without ruining it.
Thirst (South Korea)
In a truly unique representation of the vampire narrative, a priest accidently becomes a vampire and must do battle with his new immortal selfhood. Abandoning all he knew, he enters a world of darkness that he tried so hard in his previous life to fend off. Directed by Park Chan-Wook, the mind behind Oldboy and the rest of the Vengeance Trilogy, Thirst is the most fascinating study of a modern vampire character and, by far, the most horrifyingly realistic depiction of vampirism. Not enough? It is the first mainstream Korean film to feature full-frontal male nudity.
Keramat (aka Sacred) (Indonesia)
The title, which in Islamic mysticism means the ability to perform supernatural wonders by Muslim saints, is the best Asian mockumentary so far, in which the director didn’t use a script to shoot it. The whole cast delivers strong performances and keep the mystery through the long journey from Jakarta to Bantul traversing several high profile locations. This typical journey to the other world reminds us not to mess with nature, as, “Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves”.
Here we end, as we began, with Nature; and with this cherubic Rousseau’s quote, I end this list. Good night, and good luck.