Director(s): Miike Takashi, Park Chan-wook, Fruit Chan
Country: Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong
Run time: 118 minutes
Fucked up shit: Yes
Three...Extremes is the follow up to Three, an anthology comprised of three short films by various prominent directors from the Asian continent. Last time Hong Kong, Korea, and Thailand were represented with Peter Chan Ho-Sun, Kim Jee-Woon, and Nonzee Nimbutr, respectively, directing short stories which revolved around ghost stories, and the paranormal. Each director had the obvious credentials to play their part, with Kim Jee-Woon having directed A Tale of Two Sisters, and Peter Chan Ho-Sun having created the mega-hit Eye films, and this time around with Three...Extremes the directors are also fit to play their roles, too. The mantra has changed from ghosts to, a hybrid of themes including, revenge, lust, greed, and fucked up shit, which suit’s the new directors, Takashi Miike from Japan, Park Chan-Wook from South Korea, and Fruit Chan from Hong Kong.
Takashi Miike, and Park Chan-wook, may well be the most well-known Asian directors to the uninitiated independent film couturiers. Miike, of course, known for his fucked up shit, with his cult classic Audition having recently been awarded ninth scariest movie of all time by the Bravo cable television station, and Park Chan-wook’s recent explosion on the scene with Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, and Oldboy ready to make him an international star. Fruit Chan, the seemingly unknown man out, has created a few feature films in Hong Kong, including a full length version of his submitted segment Dumplings, which interestingly enough includes the moniker "Three...Extremes" before it.
It’s hard to say whether or not the reputations match up to the short films presented. This could partially be because after consuming one film there is little time to reflect before the next opus beings. While the collaborative short film release is a good idea, and has been utilized fairly well with the Jam Films series, it is relatively weak for presenting new ideas. Let’s have a look see.
Box: Starting things off slowly comes Miike’s submission to the extreme genre is Box, a tale of a twenty-something author who has a recurring dream where she is being strangled via plastic, and trapped in a tiny, tiny box. Through the progression of the film flashbacks and real time occur concurrently, eloquently revealing a complex story with details only Miike’s fine camerawork, and direction could reveal.
True to form, Miike utilizes his ability to take a simplistic, mundane script and transform it into a vibrant display of storytelling. True, he works with two prime clichés, and also makes use of an easy scare with the all-to-easy, young-child-long-black-hair spooky thing, but it still comes off completely endearing in that Miike sort of way. Combined with a few beautiful scenes (doesn’t everything look better with snow?), Box is a relaxing, if disturbing start to Three...Extremes.
Dumplings: Ching is a woman falling to one of the seven realities of human life: aging. Dealing with a husband who is losing interest, and a life in the television spotlight going down hill, she will try anything to stay sexy, and fit. Enter Mei, a hip, ageless chef who creates "special" dumplings in her cramped apartment for woman desiring a cure for their wrinkling skin, and fading complexion. Not your average chef, Mei also doubles as a doctor, of sorts, in an attempt to get the freshest, healthiest ingredients.
Needless to say, Dumplings is the most fucked up shit in the whole of the Three...Extremes universe. However, all gross out, vomit-inducing action left aside, Fruit Chan presents probably the weakest of the three short films, all though it is still, admittedly, pretty good. A catch twenty-two of sorts exists after seeing this: it is apparent that the story was brought down by the time restraint, and an part of me wants to see what the full-length film is like, but really, what could be added to this exploitation film? It feels like something is missing.
Cut: As this film opens a woman is playing piano, and then she bites her butler on the neck because she’s a vampire! What!? Don’t worry, it’s only a movie, and the camera pulls back to reveal the director yucking it up his crew, and cast. After returning home, to a mansion that looks exactly like the vampires set, the director is apprehended by an unknown assailant. Coming to, the director finds himself back on the set, with his wife elaborately tied to the piano, her fingers superglued to the keys. The terrorist makes himself know, and sets out the manifesto of his class warfare: simply put, rich people are not allowed to be nice in his world, and the director is a good guy, so he’s a bad guy. The terrorist gives him an ultimatum: if he kills a child, who is tied to a couch, then he will be let go, and his wife will be spared.
Park Chan-wook is easily one of my favorite directors at this current moment, and after viewing Cut I can now say that I have seen everything he has created. His style is very polished, and shining, with that uber-hip DV look to it that’ll make your eyes water. Cut, style in tact, is still his least amusing effort to date, all though still real interesting and inventive. Again, however, it seems that the overall effect is brought down by the time constraints, and the rushed ending doesn’t make much sense, which is unusual for Chan-wook, who’s other films have all been wrapped up nicely. All in all, it is a nice way to round the wagons and complete the anthology that is extreme: Three...Extremes.