23. Robogeisha (DVD)

Yesterday I filled in a questionnaire about Extreme Asian cinema which wanted to know why I might watch something that may be filed under “Asian Extreme” cinema. It was quite a thorough questionnaire, trying to pinpoint what I thought the appeal of such cinema was, as well as probing my definitions of it. I get a sense that it is trying to repeal some BBFC decisions, but its interesting area of research (though how truthful its answers will be may be unclear). If you are interested in the questionnaire it is here:

Anyway the point is I don’t watch an awful lot of what I might consider Asian Extreme cinema. That said I see plenty of Asian films which tiptoe into this area, and certainly in the J-Horror period saw some quite nasty stuff (fish-hooks in the fanny movie The Isle being an obvious example). I am particularly queasy about sexual violence and extreme body horror, but I do try not to self censor too much if a film seems worthwhile (Audition was tough but rewarding for example). But on the other side I do have a bit of an interest in schlocky gore horror, and just genre trash movies. Hence renting Robogeisha – from the man who bought us Machine Girl. Robogeisha has a mix of gore, splatter effects, ridiculous body horror and odd stabs at eroticism that is as enjoyable as you want it to be. I probably took it at the level of an X-rated Power Rangers episode, replete with ejaculating demons and some truly poor effects. And yet it cutely goes all the way to try and string together a coherent plot, its not just happy with Cyborg Geisha / gore / sex. Though it is quite happy with that.

I probably didn’t give it an awful lot of respect as a viewer. As said before I can get very distracted watching DVD’s and I think I made some ice-cream while I watched this. Which is fine, it doesn’t demand much watching, just a reaction when, say a circular saw comes out of someone’s mouth, or all the limbs are cut off of yet another businessman in his suit and tie. But its not the only definition of extreme out there, and I think I would have been giving the following film a disservice if I had watched it so lackadaisically.

24. Ms.45 (Cinema)

Ms.45 is a rape revenge drama by Abel Ferrara which sits uneasily in the “extreme” cinema genre. Much like many of the Russ Meyer films Al and Sarah are looking at, there can be a problem with rape in cult exploitation films. There is a subsection of the fans of this kind of film who appreciate the schlock value, the contrast between low production values, and direct storytelling. I saw Ms.45 at a midnight screening at the Rio run by Cigarette Burns Cinema, whose stated aim is to bring forgotten and obscure cult classics back to the cinema. And in their intro they admitted that the joys of cult cinema are tested in the opening sequences of Ms.45 where the mute heroine Thana played by Zoë Lund is raped twice on the way home. It sets up the rest of the film perfectly, Thana’s gun obsession and later shooting sprees are more than motivated by this intro, but it does take a crowd waiting for exploitation thrills into a whole different type of exploitation. Ferrara is a good enough director to push the story into some more interesting directions, and it is a pretty terrific and direct extension of Death Wish tropes (even if some of the soundtrack seems to go on forever). But to go back to the subtext hinted in the Asian Extreme questionnaire, it is disturbing to think that there may be people watching the film to enjoy the rape sequences. I am sure there are people watching Robogeisha because they are turned on by cyborg sex workers, and yet that perturbs me less. Perhaps because at its heart Robogeisha is clearly a silly film, wheras Ms.45 is less so. Though Ms.45, with its final sequences of its heroine dressed up as a nun on one final shooting spree is, like all of Robogeisha, aiming for an extreme, visceral effect.

Film 2Oh!! is an attempt to write about every film I have seen this year which is really quite tricky. This year I have seen 119 films, written about 24. Its tricky.