Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Reality is seen in dreams. What you dream at night is real."


Love. Somebody who made such a beautiful piece of art surely doesn't believe in an intangible thing like that. Love is intangible and ugly.", Hirai Tarou, "Rampo Noir"

I am great with books. Can easily spend a whole day reading books. Multiple books are no problem either. Movies however are another story. I seldom have the patience to sit through a whole movie in one session (which is kinda a problem when at the cinema...), I just can't keep my attention to it the full two-and-a-half hours movies nowadays take (Cue the "In the old days..." story). Though I have problems keeping my attention to things in general. Happens in conversations often. Yeah.

But anyway, somewhat related to the whole Kyuushuu thing, have I been watching movies based on Edogawa Rampo's work lately, which provide me with 1) not so insanely long movies (or at least segmented movies) and 2) strange visuals which leave me wondering what the heck I was watching. Not the why-did-I-waste-my-time-on-this wondering, the Gee-wiz-this-was-entertaining-but-what-was-that wondering.

(Exception: K-20: The Legend of the Mask (K20 - Kaijin Nijuu Mensou Den, 2008, Satou Shimako), which was a Japanese take on the Hollywood superhero movie based on the Monster with 20 Faces character of Edogawa's Boy Detectives Club series. Entertaining adventure movie. And no strange visuals which leave me wondering what the heck I was watching)

One of the most famous movies based on Edogawa's work is The Black Lizard (Kurotokage, 1968, Fukusaku Kinji). Mainly due to two things: famous writer Mishima Yukio (the one who commited ritual suicide) penned the screenplay and played a (small) part in it. And two, it's a very campy movie. Not as campy as 1960's Batman, but it runs dangerously alongst the border. Partly because The Black Lizard, a female thief, is played by Miwa Akihiro, a cross-dressing actor. Partly because of the corny dialogue. Largely because of the snake throwing henchman. Besides the campiness though, it is a pretty faithful movie adaptation of the book. Which itself was pulpy, so that explains a lot. Not the snake throwing henchman though.

Horrors of Malformed Men (Kyoufu Kikei Ningen: Edogawa Rampo Zenshuu, 1969, Ishii Teruo) on the other hand is completely Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome. The mishmash of pretty much all the famous Edogawa Rampo stories (but mostly based on The Strange Tale of Panorama Isle) has actually never, ever had a home release in Japan and got its very first release worldwide in 2007. Known as a precursor to Pinky Violent movies, Horrors of Malformed Men does not make that much sense, but hell, it's captifying due to what's shown. From an island of naked women to monsters, a strangely dancing madman, several dancing madwomen, People-in-Chairs, Wandering-in-the-Attic, Siamese twins, Batman Gambits and..... way beyond the borders of campiness, it's just Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome. Watch it.

Rampo Noir (Rampo Jigoku, 2005, Jissouji Akio, Kaneko Atsushi, Satou Hisayasu, Takeuchi Suguru) a more recent anthology of four movies (Canals of Mars, Hell of Mirrors, Caterpillar and Crawling Bugs) by four directors based on Edogawa's work similarly uses its visuals to provoke the watcher, though this is more so through design. Which is gorgeous. This was a high-budget production which really shows in the movie. Combined with great stories which in turn were adapted great for the screen, this is best Edogawa-based movie I have seen till now (And because despite appearances I never just randomly quote or write stuff as bridges, I also like this movie because it is split in four parts. Which means I can watch in four sessions. Which is not a strain to my attention span. Which I like very much.).

Finally, I have both read and seen Moju: Blind Beast this week. The novellete was published in the United States by Shinbaku and tells the story of a blind sculptor who kidnaps a model to his lair. And dismemberment and murders and evil-blind-man-on-rampage adventures ensue. It is truly a work of erogurononsense, that is, a story that uses erotic and grotesque imagery to shock the reader. It succeeds in its purpose. Moju is that and nothing more than an erugurononsense work, but it's fantastic in that aspect. Blind Beast (Mojuu, 1969, Masumura Yasuzou) is maybe even better as visual imagery help very, very much. The workshop of the blind beast, filled with giant hands, ears, lips, breasts and giant naked women is something to be seen. Or felt, if blind. And this movie makes great use of its length. The novelette tells us a lot more than the movie, but most of Edogawa's novelletes tend to get gimmicky and pile ups of shocking moments which in the end just cheapen the whole experience. The same with Moju: Blind Beast. Movie Blind Beast however tells us a gripping story with great visuals and shots without weakening even once during its play.

And with this it has been more than enough of Edogawa Rampo for a while. Back to normal sane detectives where people just get murdered and don't enjoy it. Where murderers don't paint their victims in all the colors of the rainbow. Murderers just murder, victims just die. Rational, logical murders.

"Rationality, that was it. No esoteric mumbo jumbo could fool that fellow. Lord, no! His two feet were planted solidly on God's good earth" , Ellery Queen, "The Lamp of God"

1 comment :

  1. ... right. I think, eroguro really isn't something for me. At least the movies aren't. I can read about it, but watching it is... different.