movie review: Three…Extremes, Paste, 2005
Directors: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-Wook, Takashi Miike
Cinematography: Christopher Doyle; Chung Chung-Hoon; Koichi Kawakami
Starring: Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Tony Ka-Fai Leung; Lee Byung-Hun; Kyoko Hasegawa
Studio info: Lions Gate Films; 125 mins
If there’s anything wrong with Three…Extremes, a set of short horror films by a trio of top-shelf Asian directors, it’s that there isn’t more of it. All three installments of this 125-minute thrill fest about taking things too far are mouth-wateringly gorgeous, psychologically complex and outrageously entertaining.
“Dumplings” is the tale of Qing, an aging film star so desperate to retain her looks that she greedily gobbles up special pockets of dough made by a saucy former gynecologist snugly attired in patterned spandex, whose choice of meat filling makes the stem-cell debate seem tepid. For better and worse, it’s a highly sensuous film, thanks to sumptuous photography by Christopher Doyle (Hero), who sees color with a Fauvist’s eye, and director Fruit Chan (Hollywood Hong Kong), who heightens every revolting crunch and slurp.
Next up is Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy), whose “Cut” is a bitingly funny story of a movie extra, crazed with envy, who invades a famous director’s house—a gaudy cobalt-blue mansion with zany checkerboard floors—and terrorizes him, stringing his wife to the grand piano as if she were a life-size marionette and binding the director to a long stretchy tether that keeps him from helping his wife (whose fingers the extra wants to chop off) or running away, which is probably the first reaction most directors would have if an extra came into their home dressed up in a costume from one of their films, hoping for recognition.
After those two brisk affairs, “Box,” about a sister whose jealousy leads to her twin’s fiery death, feels almost glacial. Variously set in a circus tent, a snowy landscape, and the streets of a rainy city, it shares the spectacular design sense of “Dumplings” and “Cut,” but director Miike Takashi (Audition) takes a more spacious, if not allusive, approach. Then again, there’s nothing abstract about the terrible contents of the titular box, the glimpse of which could cause your electric bills to go up. It’s expensive to sleep with the lights on.