The World’s Weirdest Movies 1
Culture differences often become most obvious in that most popular of forms, cinema, and I can think of few greater extremes than those from Far Eastern culture, which has resulted in this double bill. The Japanese ‘House’ (1977) and the South Korean ‘Dasepo Naughty Girls’ (2006) were produced three decades apart, and yet share common obsessions that are so completely alien to Western viewpoints that they almost defy being watched.
‘House’ purports to be a horror film. It’s not. ‘Fairytale’ might be more apt, but that doesn’t catch it either. Seven schoolgirls go on vacation to an aunt’s house, and the house fights them. The aunt waits for a suitor who never arrived, the cat is bewitched, one girl is eaten by a piano, one by futons and another by a lampshade, but the tone is what’s most odd, a cartoonish, jaunty innocence that prevails even when the house is filling with blood.
There’s also an uncomfortably lascivious attitude toward the schoolgirls that plays on their virginity. Most of all, the eye-watering colourscapes, backdrops, bursts of animation and madcap surreal moments (a flying head, footage run back and forth to the music, squiggles hand-painted onto stock, dancing severed torsos) threatens to undo the whole thing – and eventually does.
But there are sublime moments – a memory of dead parents told by one of the girls to the others becomes old film footage that the girls comment on.
‘Dasepo Naughty Girls’ also looks at a group of schoolgirls through dayglo lenses. One pupil is a cyclops whose sister may be a man, and a teacher becomes a giant bug and there are karaoke interludes, but more disturbingly, the schookids are obsessed with sex in all its forms. This is from a smash-hit Manga, but takes exactly the same scattergun approach as ‘House’, unable to decide whether its girls are whores or madonnas. Perhaps it reflects the adolescent mindset of children who have grown up too surrounded by adult fears, and a retreat into fantasy curiously reveals those fears rather than masking them.
The film demands considerable knowledge of South Korean movie conventions and teen pop culture to really work, but the dazzling visuals make up for a lot. And it has a point – the message is about showing tolerance towards those who are different, and overall the movie sends up Koreans’ obsessions with social conformity. But it will still mess with your head.
The two films are linked by a visual exuberance that film-makers love but the public rarely seem to enjoy (both ‘Scott Pilgrim’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’ underperformed in the US, although they posted respectable returns in the UK)
There will be other weird matches to come…