Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Killer-Works Memories: Imprint

Back in 2008, I began posting a string of film reviews for Killer-Works. The web site has recently shut down, so I've been slowly re-posting the reviews here. This week, I'm re-posting my review of the Takash Miike's contribution to the Master of Horror series, Imprint. The review was originally published on March 27, 2009.

When Showtime began its (2006) Masters of Horror series, the idea was that the great horror directors of today would each be given an hour to tell a story with none of the limitations usually assigned to a feature length production. The implication was that, on a premium channel, there would be no taboo areas that these films couldn't explore. Showtime received thirteen short films. Twelve of them became the show's first season. The thirteenth film was never aired.

Takashi Miike's 13th offering crossed the lines that supposedly didn't exist. His contribution, Imprint, is only available on DVD. Even before seeing this particular film, those familiar with Miike's work will probably understand why there was a problem. The director of Audition and Visitor Q doesn't simply create films that are more violent or disgusting than those of most other directors. He creates transgressive cinema. He takes a simple story about a man searching for his lost love and transforms it into an exploration of the lies we tell (to ourselves and others) in order to hide the truth. He does this by mixing disturbing imagery with equally disturbing ideas.

A deformed prostitute tells the horrible tale of a woman desperately awaiting the return of her lost love, only to turn the story on its side to recount her own hideous upbringing, only to turn the story on its side again to reveal the truth about the man listening to all of it. With every turn of the plot, we are left to believe that we've seen the worst of it, only to watch another turn and another disturbing revelation. These revelations include scenes of torture (despite what the brothel madam says, that's going to leave a mark) and violence against both women and children. Frankly, it's difficult to imagine editing this film down to something acceptable to Showtime without simply removing many of the key plot points.

By the end of Imprint, it's difficult to tell what has actually happened, since it uses both an unreliable narrator and an unreliable listener. Sit through the credits for one final scene that comments on the entire film with a single gesture.

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