Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Marebito

Marebito
Directed by: Takeshi Shimizu, Japan, 2005
Fantasy / Horror / Drama, 92min
Distributed by: Tartan Asia

Story:
Freelance cameraman Matsuoka [Shinya Tsukamoto] has determined to find the true face of fear after documenting a man committing suicide. His search takes him deep beneath the streets of Tokyo and into huge system of complex tunnels. At the end of the tunnel he finds the remains of an abandoned ancient city and there he finds her… the pale naked woman that he takes back to his flat and tries to “acclimatise” to modern society. Each day the woman who he calls F. [Tomomi Miyashita].grows weaker and weaker until Matsuoka accidentally finds out what she needs to regain her strength and health.

Me:
Well I’ve had quite a few mixed feelings towards Shimizu’s movies, I thought that the first Ju-On movies and the sequels where great the first time I saw them, but upon repeated viewing they rapidly get quite annoying as you never really get to know the characters, and his efforts after them, what with the US remakes and all. After I watched Rinne [Aka Reincarnation, 2005] I was truly disappointed and it made me loose interest in his career. But by chance I stumbled over Marebito and decided to give it a chance, even though I previously have rejected it due to reviews. Anyhow, the first ten minutes managed to draw me in and it could have been the way Shimizu starts to unfold this tale of just the fact that it was Tsukamoto in the lead role as Matsuoka. After the quite graphic suicide of Arei Fukori [Kazuhiro Nakagawa] Matusoka starts his quest for the true face of fear, which drives him to return to the scene of the suicide, where he starts searching for clues to what gave Arei that terrified gaze in his stare the seconds before he took his own life. And here Shimizu starts to take on bold steps. Matsuoka finds himself discovering an underground system of tunnels in which he finds the ghost of Arei, and somewhere about here you start to realise that this isn’t going to be a typical J-horror shocker. The ghost is just there and he doesn’t come of as a threat to Matsuoka, who doesn’t even get scared by the ghost. The ghost leads him down the dark corridors until Matsuoka arrives at an ancient city which I to the best can be described as a Lovecraft-ian sort of world which sets a completely different tone to the events to come. Ok so the city is quite bad CGI and I had a few problems buying it, but Shimizu does wise in not focusing on the city and moves rapidly on to the “creature” or naked shockingly skinny naked woman that Matsuoka finds chained to the wall of a cave. He takes her home and starts to study her so that he can adapt her to modern society. He does this with a complicated system of surveillance cameras and even through his cell phone that is connected to a webcam at his flat. Somewhere around here I started to realise that there are two ways to watch this movie, either you can be disappointed because it isn’t turning out to be a J-horror movie within the formula or you can watch it as a melancholic fantasy drama, which plays out like homage to the world of Lovecraft. It’s all there, the lonesome protagonist searching for something, alone with his doubts of his own sanity. The relationship between Matsuoka and F. as he calls her sort of reminds me of George and Weena in George Pal’s The Time Machine 1960. A strange relationship which blends curiosity with fascination and fear for the unknown with protective parental instincts. The lengths that Matsuoka goes to when he realises that F. craves blood to survive are just one example, and the baby bottling of his victims blood is another. Then the question about his sanity! Is he in fact just insane or is this happening? The strange man in black that keeps showing up and talking about the “task” that Matsuoka has taken upon himself, and then there’s the worried woman who stalks him and then claims to be his ex-wife and F. his daughter! Is he insane or is it happening? Also the ending, could you actually ask for a better ending? Matstuoka gets what he is searching for on all levels, the company of F, and he finds the fear that he so desperately was looking for!


In general I enjoyed the movie, there was enough elements thrown in at the right time to keep the J-Horror slow crawling pace alive and vibrant, for instance the suicide, the ghost of Arei, the Lovecraft-ian thread, the finding of F., the mysterious woman Aya Fukumoto [Miho Ninagawa, who you probably recognise from Miike’s MOH episode Imprint], the Man in Black [Shun Sugata, who you may have seen in loads of other Japanese genre movies like Kairo, Koroshiya 1, and even Tarantino’s Kill Bill.] the discovery of F. needs for survival and so forth all the way though out the movie, and it works. I definitely have to revalue Shimizu again, and would highly recommend Marebito to anyone looking for gems within the world of Asian cinema, but keep in mind it isn’t a J-Horror formula movie it’s something completely different even if a lot of the trademarks are there.

Image: Anamorphic Widescreen: 1.78:1, Optional English Subtitles.

Audio:
Japanese Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 and DTS Digital 5.1.

Extras:
There are a few short interviews with Director Takashi Shimizu, actor/director Shinya Tsukamoto and Writer Hiroshi Takahashi. Film notes and the original theatrical Trailer.