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June 17, 2008


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Saam Gaang/Three Extremes 2
Kim Ji-Woon, Nonzee Nimibutr and Peter Chan - 2002
Lionsgate Region 1 DVD

Today marks three years since "Coffee Coffee and more Coffee" was launched, and so . . .

An explanation of the title is in order. There are two pan-Asian horror trilogies. The second trilogy to be filmed, in 2004, was the first to be seen by Western audiences on DVD. The two trilogies are different in that this first set of stories is less graphic, and more psychological. The films also can serve as an introduction to filmmakers who will be having higher profiles among western viewers in the coming year.

At this point, Kim Ji-Woon is primarily known for A Tale of Two Sisters. Kim's newest film, The Good, the Bad and the Weird garnered attention at the last Cannes Film Festival. Kim's first film, The Quiet Family was remade by Takashi Miike as The Happiness of the Katakuris. Kim's entry here, "Memories", alternates between a husband who is missing his wife, and the wife, who is trying to remember her identity. The husband has visions of a woman who may be his wife, but he finds himself forgetting details about her. Most of the scenes of the wife, portrayed by Kim Hye-Su, are done without dialogue. The film takes place in a city of gleaming high rises, "where dreams come true", that is strangely with very few people. Like A Tale of Two Sisters, even when one thinks that the story is figured out, it isn't. There are dreams within dreams, and the narrative that may tie everything together unravels as soon it is suggested that that too is a dream.

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"The Wheel" is Nomzee Nimibutr's continued exploration of Thai folk legends. The story is basically about puppets that are connected with the souls of the artists who perform with them and the curses placed on those puppets. Nomzee also touches on the different hierarchies of Thai folk artists. In this case it is the status of performing artists with those who enact the folk tales with puppets. With the exception of OK Baytong, Nonzee's stories take place in previous eras. Thematically his concern is with corruption of the family unit. In "The Wheel" the patriarch's desire for stature and glory as an artist are his undoing, as his his son's anger at not having the same opportunities as the chief apprentice. Nonzee also explores the Buddhist belief about the impossibility of escaping one's karma.

Peter Chan's inclusion in a horror trilogy may seem unexpected as a writer-director. As a producer, Chan has been associated with the Pang brothers The Eye and its sequels. What Chan's entry, "Going Home" has in common with such films as Comrades: Almost a Love Story it his recurring theme of love that overcomes the most extreme obstacles. There is a continuity with the casting of frequent collaborators Leon Lai and Eric Tsang in the main roles. Christopher Doyle's cinematography conveys a severe, formal look to the film. The story is about a cop and his young son who move into a crumbling apartment building, a month away from being torn down. The only other people who seem to still live in the building are a man with his paralyzed wife and small daughter. It is never explained why the cop moves to the building. The other family is quite private, keeping to themselves. The boy and the girl have disappeared. The reclusive man is forced to reveal secrets to the cop. The attitude towards those parts of the narrative that are glossed over without explanation seems reflected in the young boy - he steps out from a place that may, or may not have, really existed, looks back, and shrugs his shoulders.

Chan, in discussing his episode stated: " I was trying to make a movie about love. And about how far you would go if you love someone. And I was using Chinese medecine as really a way of telling a story, and if you noticed, I purposely stayed away from a lot of details. I was trying to take the film to a level where you wouldn't have questions weither it's logical. I was hoping the audience would just believe in the story that I'm telling not because of Chinese medicine, but because of love."

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Posted by peter at June 17, 2008 12:15 AM


Congratulations on three years.

Hope you have saved some Nonzee nuggets for August.

I'll be announcing my threatened Nonzee blog-a-thon soon.

It's good to know Three is out there, waiting to be seen. For me, it's one of the missing films in my Nonzee canon.

Posted by: wisekwai at June 17, 2008 04:41 PM