Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hungry ghosts in Rotterdam

Shinya Tsukamoto's Nightmare Detective 2

I had already mentioned about writing for the 'Hungry Ghosts' program in Rotterdam. Well, here's the actual article, nicely done with all the photos and gewgaws and what-have-you.

(For the record, the latter link is what I wrote for Rotterdam, the former my own opinion about the films I saw)


It's easier, I think, to enjoy Asian horror in its multivaried forms than to explain why one enjoys it, or why it's perceived to be generally better than the Hollywood kind. Is it that Asians have a more profound, more widespread belief in the supernatural? Is it that their many cultures are more open to matters mythological, irrational, metaphysical?

One thing I learned while writing a piece for a film magazine that had asked critics and writers to sum up their thoughts about Asian cinema, is that the cinema is basically impossible to summate. Too many cultures, with too much history behind them, expressing their passion and skepticism and terror in too many ways. Do Asians have a stronger belief in ghosts? Yes, but they at times show an equally strong rationalism, a belief that there are other things to worry about besides phantoms (see Joko Anwar's impressive "Pintu Terlarang" (Forbidden Door, 2009)). Is Asian culture more open to the supernatural? Yes, at the same time it's equally open to technological change (observe the swift rise of digital filmmaking in the region in recent years) and our complexly ambivalent response to them (see, among others, Hideo Nakata's "Ringu" (Ring, 1998), Kurosawa Kiyoshi's "Kairo" (Pulse, 2001), Takashi Miike's "Chakushin ari" (One Missed Call, 2003), Masayuki Ochiai's "Shutter" (2008) (funny you can't help but notice most of these tech horrors are Japanese). Are Asian horror films better than Hollywood? Yes, usually--with the qualifier that many of these Asian films are often inspired by or take off from or are clever variations of their Hollywood equivalents (both a good and bad thing, I think). When it comes to writing about Asian horror, much less Asian cinema in general, one is well advised not to attempt too many generalization--chances are there'll be a handful of films somewhere, sometime, that will prove you wrong.

Sa Ilalim ng Cogon (Rico Ilarde)


rico said...

Noel! Thanks for the mention and the pic. Congrats on the IFFR gig. Guess there are worse things to be called than just "annoying," he, he. Mammu and I made it just barely to the tail-end of the festival. Surprisingly, both ALTAR and COGON were fairly well-received. At least on the 2nd screenings we attended. I'm doing a commercial feature for Star Cinema now. This certainly won't be as gonzo as COGON, etc, but hopefully it will be fresh and some of it never-before-seen. At the end of the day, you just hope and wish to create something unique.....

Noel Vera said...

Wear annoying like a badge of honor, man--it means you're getting under people's skins.