Friday, September 03, 2010

RAG's Film Report part 3: Extreme Hong Kong

Considering how conservative Hong Kong cinema usually is, it's really quite a shock when you find out about some of the extreme movies they have produced, some of the most extreme films ever made, equal to any of the sick movies to come from anywhere. An example of the contrast is when the already married Sammo Hung fell in love with a different woman, he divorced his then-wife out of respect, but because of the divorce, his popularity plummeted despite the steady quality of his new films. It has been said that he could have maintained much better popularity if he had cheated on his wife, and kept the sacred marriage going. Fucking crazy Hong Kong.

Untold Story/Bunman/Human Porkchop, Dr Lamb and Ebola Syndrome all have fearsome reputations, but I wasnt really interested in any of them enough to add them to an overly large list of movies I wanted to get over with within months. But then I heard about Red To Kill. A film with probably the most shocking concept for a movie I'd ever heard. Basically it's about a rapist who goes after a mentally disabled girl, and I wanted to see how someone would approach and execute such a horrible idea in a movie. I have a feeling that this movie could never be made in Hong Kong now, hard to imagine it being made anywhere now.

The film looks like Dario Argento quite a lot, with the dark scenery bathed in red/blue lighting and a bad guy whose face you never quite get to see properly at the beginning. The rape scenes are definitely pornographic, with as much emphasis on the body of the rapist as the bodies of the female victims. You get the feeling they really wanted to show off his body, his fantastic buttocks showcased with a jock-strap. The transormation of the actor playing the rapist is incredible, hard to believe it is the same man, but it is. He at first appears to be a small thin caring sensitive person,, but reveals himself as this large muscular veiny throbbing furious screaming monster just boiling with negative energy. This is a really harsh depressing movie and despite the really questionable exploitative content, I've seen almost exclusively positive responses of the internet reviews I can find, several people said it made them cry. I'd really like to see a roundtable of more politically correct people dissect and argue over it, or atleast ones who arent throwing around the word "misogynist" as if they are trying to strip the word of its meaning. Remember those good old words like "chauvinist" and "dickhead"?


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the resolution of any disempowering gesture on-screen typically results in the 'jester effect', a condition in which characters are paradoxically empowered by subordination, like the court jester or eunuch who, because of their performative self-debasement, become free to make fun of and debase the authority figures whom they are subordinated by. In the performative space of celluloid, a victim's disempowerment typically comes with the opportunity to dislocate power. Thus, revenge or retribution are usually in order in films that deal with rape.

In the conventional scheme of things, the audience is meant to identify with the subordinated (Blue Velvet being an anomaly in this respects, because the audience's identification with the hero is subverted by the hero's own identification with the rapist.) However, when a character is assumed to be disempowered from the start - may they be disabled, underprivelaged, or in the case of Precious, black - no concrete or permanent dislocation of power seems to take place, as if social identity carries a currency that is void in this performative power-exchange. At the risk of feeling icky I have to say it seems like a touch of genius for the filmmakers to play on these dynamics and make the rapist the 'normal' guy and the victim the other.

Robert Adam Gilmour said...

Have you seen this film? Because both the rapist and the disabled girl seem very "other" to me. The nurse/helper lady seems to me the only normal person, although I think there is some space to identitfy with them all.
Analysing eroticised rape stories is extremely difficult, I always get lost and dont know where to stand.