April 08, 2006


Takashi Miike's IMPRINTTakashi Miike's IMPRINT is the installment in Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series famous for not being aired in the US, although Showtime's minions aren't hesitating to walk the flick around the film festival circuit. It just screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and I think the best way to describe it is as MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA with dead babies.

An American played by Billy Drago ("Charmed", "The X Files", HILLS HAVE EYES remake) visits an old timey Japanese whorehouse located on an island surrounded by the bloated, floating corpses of pregnant women. Like most people in movies who go to whorehouses he's not looking for a good time, rather he's searching for his lost lady love Komomo who, for some reason, took up a job as a prostitute while waiting for him to return to Japan and marry her. I'd have recommended she take in washing or maybe work in the food industry, but different strokes for different folks.

Drago can't find Kobopbop and so, invoking the "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" principle, he holes up overnight with a deformed prostitute whose face looks like a kindergarten art project. She tells him the deep dark secret behind Kowowo's death (yep, she's dead) but he demands to know the truth. Rather than yelling that he can't handle the truth, scarface then tells him the "real" story behind his honey's death. But it turns out that that's a lie, too, and there's yet another story to be told, this one involving buck-toothed hand puppets, mutiple abortions, dead babies floating downstream, and incest. There's also a midget with a leprous nose and a rooster on his head.

Takashi Miike's IMPRINTTaken straight with no chaser, IMPRINT is a lumpy and somewhat unsatisfying flick. The English language dialogue is hooked on phonics, Drago's acting is as broad as the Mississippi, and the story doesn't really have a point besides "prostitution and incest suck" and I think most people take those as givens. But if you look at this as a send-up of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA it starts to make sense. The gorgeous visuals (and they are gorgeous - torture has never looked so fashionable), the heavily-accented and poorly delivered line readings by non-native English speakers, the idea of a Western man sitting down to force a geisha/hooker to tell him "the Truth" about her life, all of this is taken directly from GEISHA and it's an artbomb planted in the heart of the original book.

The trouble with Miike is that he's so busy dispensing gruesome visuals and stylish characters that you start to not only wonder what it all means but you wonder if he even knows what it all means and then you wonder if that matters. Miike seems to put his id right up onscreen and I don't think he's so much a deliberate provocateur, as some folks have cast him, but an unconscious serial offender. IMPRINT ultimately dissolves into a series of shocks, some of which are silly and some of which are disgusting, but there's something to it even if Miike isn't able to fully drag it out into the open.

Maybe it's the gleefully twisted idea that Billy Drago is supposed to be playing Arthur Golden who sits down to get the memories of a geisha but, instead of a polite tale of rape and prostitution seen through a rose-colored lens and ready-made for American consumption, he gets a harrowing story about abortion, hatred, lies, incest, torture and rubber fetuses that not only answers the question of "What's under all that hair piled up on Japanese lady's heads?" but is, ultimately, unshowable to the very Americans who are supposed to watch it.

I like to think that Miike, fully aware of his status as the pet Japanese filmmaker on "Masters of Horror" made a movie that deliberately bites the hand that signed his check. "Make us movie about pretty pretty geisha girl. You make it crazy, Miike, so American fanboy post on internet," say the American producers. And Miike says, "No problem." And he gives them geisha. And he gives them pretty. And he gives them crazy. And he gives them dead baby, too. Uh-oh.

April 8, 2006 at 09:10 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink


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» Kaiju Shakedown Review of Imprint from horrorsnotdead.com
The always fruitful Twitch introduced me to a review of Imprint up at Kaiju Shakedown, and its a review of such concision that I already feel bad for not having been a regular reader of Grady Hendrix writing.  Ive now learned the error o... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 8, 2006 1:13:58 PM

» Imprint Reviews bei Kaiju Shakedown Horror's not dead from takashimiike.twoday.net
Bei Kaiju Shakedown gibt es eine Kritik zu Miikes "Masters of Horror" - Beitrag Imprint, der Ende Mai bei uns auf DVD erscheint. Eine weitere Kritik findet sich in dem Blog horrorsnotdead.com. Zur Kritik bei Kaiju Shakedown! Zur Kritik bei horrorsnot... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 8, 2006 5:37:45 PM

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Tracked on Apr 18, 2006 5:40:33 PM


I just wanted to say, damned good breakdown of the episode. A really fantastic writeup of a somewhat muddled hour of brazen insanity.

Posted by: Peter | Apr 8, 2006 1:06:38 PM

I disagree completely. I thought this episode was awesome. Yes, there were shock-tactics, but this was made-for-tv horror and as such it did everything it ought to and more i.e. actually horrify you with it's disturbing visuals whilst simultaneously shocking you with equally disturbing narrative twists. Not only that, but it was incredibly filmic for television, with real effort put into the production.

The first I'd viewed of Miike's work was Audition, which everybody raves about, but I hated it and found it very overrated. With Visitor Q etc I gave it a miss because I thought he was just out to be increasingly shocking, that that was his sole strategy, but not so. I recieved several of his films to review and found him to be an amazingly versatile and intelligent director who has great feeling for his work, and making disturbed narratives and visuals was only part of his ability's and one which he did with more thought than I'd previously given him credit for.

I definitely have a lot of respect for him as a director and now he's proved his skills in yet another format. Rather than come over as desperately trying to shock the audience, I think he's proved himself to be a real 'master of horror', making the standout piece of work.

I think, regards the episode being pulled by Showtime, although the abortion scenes would like be risky in the US due to the laws, it was really nothing more than a plug for the DVD. However, it's one of the best pieces of horror television I've seen and I would say well worth purchasing.

Posted by: Fiona Wilson | Apr 8, 2006 2:35:35 PM

"risky in the US due to the laws"? I can't think of any laws that would stop Showtime from airing it - since they're a cable-satelite station you effectively have to opt into, the FCC Morality Squad has no sway in this case. It is risky for Showtime to have run it in the US, but the true risk is a massive outcry of protests, boycotts, death threats, and general whining from fundamentalist Christian radicals looking to impose their views on the whole country - Constitution be damned, preferrably.

Posted by: Rhythm-X | Apr 8, 2006 5:17:00 PM

Apologies, I meant the risky because of public feeling with the political status in America, that the right-wing folk would not take kindly to images of abortion.

Posted by: Fiona Wilson | Apr 9, 2006 6:05:31 AM

No wneed for an apology, if it was up to the right-wingers, your initial statement would be absolutely correct. My country scares me lately in ways even Miike at his most deranged could never do.

Posted by: Rhythm-X | Apr 9, 2006 11:10:56 AM

Gee. What would be wrong about depicting a lump of flesh being pulled from the abdomen of a woman, anyways?

When the CBS/Paramount/UPN/Showtime/MTV empire decided it was time to remake "Helter Skelter" a few years ago with that kid from "Spanking The Monkey" (what took them SO long anyway?) I questioned why they didn't depict the Manson gangs' abortion of Sharon Tate's fetus as well. Shit, they just cut her up and dragged it out and spread it all over the place and strung up Tate's lifeless body. What's so damned wrong with that?

There is NOTHING too extreme in the pursuit of art. Anything goes. Fuck you if you're offended, you close-minded assholes. Let's butcher a bunch of queers for our edification, slaughter a litter of kittens, crush a schoolbus full of retards... What's your pleasure?

SARCASM OFF. BTW "Rhythm-X," I'm not a "right-winger" or some namby-pamby bleeding heart either, but our escalating thirst for blood that passes for entertainment is sick. If you don't recognize that, then maybe a little therapy would help.

Posted by: Wyatt Wingfoot | Apr 9, 2006 8:18:12 PM

Just thought I'd point out; while I'm sure there's quite a bit there which might offend right-wingers, I would assume that the abortion scenes would be far more offensive to left-wingers (ie. depiction of abortion as being a horrific and grotesque thing)

Posted by: Anon | Apr 29, 2006 10:21:43 PM

Oh the binary nature of our limited CPU brains where the only responses are zero and 1 always make us want to compare. MEMOIRS is what it is. IMPRINT is worlds away. The movie has nothing to do with MEMOIRS of a American gay director who made a movie just to be around pretty things all day. The time periods are wrong. GEISHA aren't real whores. The IMPRINT girls are more like the fat barflys that dance at the BUSYBODY lounge off Highway 41 in Evansville, Indiana. If you want to compare, MEMOIRS girls are more like the strippers at THE BING on the SOPRANOS. IMPRINT is based on a book where the woman is the only one who talks. It's written by a Japanese woman. The same woman appears in the film and does the torturing. She doesn't have a name in the film because face it, "How many names of whores they slept with does anyone remember?" IMPRINT is not some Arthur Golden Japan expert wannabe fantasy, oops, had to settle out of court because my source sued me. The dialogue is not completely polished because according to the period (i.e. pre Hollywood English making dialects extinct) it would have to be broken. The nose of the small character is deformed from syphilis. Life wasn't pretty like MEMOIRS tries to tell you, it was downright cruel. If you'll read about the series MOH, the producers made no requests regarding material. They gave the directors complete freedom which is amazing in this day and age.
The Billy Drago character is is loosely based on Lafcadio Hearn [1850-1904] also known as Koizumi Yakumo. The young journalist developed a reputation for sensitive, dark, and fascinating accounts of Cincinnati's disadvantaged. While in Cincinnati, he married Mattie, a black woman, an illegal practice at the time. KWAIDAN is his most famous work. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lafcadio_Hearn

The only similarities in the two films is that Yuki Kudoh appears in both and is great in both.

Posted by: Man in Japan | May 3, 2006 8:52:18 AM

Forgot to mention that MEMOIRS had a budget of $85M and over three months of shooting while the MOH series were all under 1.5M and down and dirt in 21 days.

Posted by: Man in Japan | May 3, 2006 9:09:47 AM

thanks Man in Japan for some additional backround. is the source material of Imprint available anywhere? i was really pumped up by mr grady's review, but didn't experience much direct assault on Memoirs on miike's part. if anything, the story falls in the same genre of david hwang's M. Butterfly in one-upping expectations for those going into the female body politic genre (desire/fear embodied by woman standing in for a whole unknowable society.) very surprised to hear miike had final cut on Imprint. compared to his TV fare available on DVD (Sabu, MPD Psycho), the editing rhythm and reason had me pegging for bravo's own editor. there's more playing to conceived expectation of audience this time in developing the shocks, which is like a cliff notes collection of all his greatest hits (Ichi, Audition) gore-moments. well, there's always the next film since this ain't festival-bound, top tier miike (who certainly has his complexes about what from his own catalogue best suits american-centric audience judging from interviews.)

Posted by: ed | May 3, 2006 4:25:35 PM

After reading a number of reviews of T.M's "Imprint"
and viewing a few nasty photos, i can understand why the movie was banned in certain places, but with so much controversy with it's graphic nature, curiousity will always win. Depending on how we like our horror served. Recently i bought an amazing shockfest from Thailand, talk about sick twisted violence, loved it though, would like to hear what other people think
"Art Of The Devil"2 talk about graphic! It all boils down to an individuals taste, quite a few of the movies
are over the top but who cares? Fuck what Christian, Right Wing Groups think, you cannot please everyone, there will always be someone fuckhead complaining about
what we can view /listen too. If you enjoy this sort of material we will always have a choice.

Posted by: peter chrisp | Sep 18, 2006 5:20:46 AM

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