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23 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
This achieves exactly what it sets out to do., 2 December 2005
Author: olz_15 (email@example.com) from Australia
I also happened to have seen this at the very same Japanese festival in
Sydney, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
These shorts are sick. The writer behind the original stories may have a disturbed and twisted mind for inspiring these disgusting tales of torture and obsession, and love (love which is so alien it doesn't really fit the word).
Of course many stories by Edogawa Rampo have been banned already in Japan for that very same reason.
However, these shorts were great examples of how dark cinema can get. These push right to the boundaries, where sense, reason, and any sort of real point is left behind in its own madness. And it does try to make points. They draw parallels between conscious and subconscious, reality and delusion. The surreal images and narratives destroy the boundaries between the two and the flow freely into each other. The film challenges what art really is. Whether it's a beautiful reflection, a horrific image, or something that is both beautiful on the outside but dead and corroded inside. Here we see that mirrors have the potential to be god, trapping us in its frame. Love is horrific. Horrific. These shorts have the potential to repel you in disgust, or to draw you in and lose yourself in its insanity, and for that reason alone it is a powerful work of art.
The four individual directors obviously had a daunting task ahead of them trying to make this. They had to present these tales honestly, and also visually uncover the madness behind them. I don't know about the former, as I haven't read any of Rampo's stories, however visually these films are amazing too. Especially Mirror Hell, which has amazing shots of the actors constantly reflected in dozens of different mirrors.
You leave the film feeling as if the makers had thrown a lot of violence and sex at you stylishly but with no real substance. The shorts are too surreal and disjointed to follow through with any of the points they try to make. The are no answers to be found in these shorts, and nothing profound to learn or re-learn. However, these shorts were never made with such intentions. They were made to show the madness of Edogawa Rampo. They were made to disgust you, and to provoke you. And they mastered that exceptionally.
Whether you like it or not, you won't forget this one.
9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Erotic-Grotesque Japanese Anthology, 27 June 2007
Author: Rapeman from New Zealand
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rampo Noir is an anthology film that loosely adapts four short stories
by Japan's foremost crime/mystery writer Edogawa Rampo (a pseudonym
inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.) Often called Japan's Edgar Allan Poe,
Rampo's macabre tales frequently involve eccentric and/or disfigured
characters enmeshed in bizarre plots that can include anything from a
wife who turns her husband into a 'caterpillar' to a chair-maker who
buries himself inside one of his own armchairs so women can sit on him.
Other (Japanese) films based on Rampo's writing include: Blind Beast,
The Horror of Malformed Men and Watcher in the Attic.
The first segment is a mostly silent short titled Mars Canal directed by newcomer Suguru Takeuchi. With a runtime of only two minutes it features Tadanobu Asano (Electric Dragon 80.000 V, Ichi the Killer) on some kinda of lunar-scape having flashbacks (dreams?) of beating his girlfriend. Not really much to comment on here - definitely pretty surreal, especially when the lulling silence is suddenly broken with harsh noise sound effects.
The next story is called Mirror Hell and is directed by Akio Jissoji. Again Tadanobu Asano stars, this time as Detective Kogoro Akechi who is investigating a series of deaths in which beautiful women are discovered with their faces melted and their skulls turned into ashes. As a hand mirror is always found at the scene of the crime, Detective Akechi soon learns the deaths are the work of Toru (Hiroki Narimiya) a mad mirror-maker who is continuing the Japanese art of mirror-making the traditional way. This whole segment has an extreme kaleidoscopic feel to it as every shot seems to have 100 mirrors in it, which obviously pays off visually. Also included is a rather random rope-bondage 'n' candle wax session which perks things up a bit sleaze-wise.
Next up is Hisayasu Sato's (Naked Blood) wonderfully perverse entry, Caterpillar. This is definitely the best of the bunch - First Lieutenant Sunaga (Nao Omori) returned from war relatively unharmed but in a psychotically desperate attempt to stop him from returning to the battlefield his wife (Yukiko Okamoto) amputated both his arms and legs and now cares for him as her 'little caterpillar'. I must mention that caring for him includes brutally whipping him, slicing off one of his nipples with a straight razor, gouging out one of his eyes and other deviant acts. This is all gorgeously shot in true Sato style (albeit on a slightly bigger budget than usual) with strange sequences shot in colored negative in which we see through the 'caterpillars' eyes, desolate surroundings and a fantastic finale.
Finally we come to Manga artist Atsushi Kaneko's film-making debut - Crawling Bugs. The story centers around a chauffeur named Masaki (again played by Tadanobu Asano) who becomes obsessed with one of his famous passengers, stage actress Fuyu Kinoshita (Tamaki Ogawa). Masaki is a certified Mysophobe (hates germs & dirt) and gets a nasty rash on his neck when he touches people. Seeing as he is madly in love with Fuyu but can't exactly touch her, he figures a way round this by killing her and taking her home to live with him?! This has to be my second favorite entry as it has some of the most surreal imagery - an almost hallucinogenic set-piece in Masaki's home (mind?) where he paints the dead actress multicolors then unsuccessfully tries to inject her with embalming fluid, resulting in a bloodbath. Plenty of black humor here too - when the police burst into Masaki's apartment he calmly pulls his head free from the rotting belly of his 'lover' and says "what?''. Atsushi Kaneko is one director I'll definitely be keeping an eye on.
Overall, an excellent anthology which showcases a coupla up 'n' coming Japanese directors and which may also introduce a few more folk to the wonders of Edogawa Rampo.
9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
A Mixed Bag, 27 August 2006
Author: Crap_Connoisseur from Australia
Rampo Noir is a collection of 4 short films based on stories by Edogawa
Rampo, the so-called "Japanese Edgar Allen Poe". Rampo Noir is widely
uneven, painfully pretentious and at least half an hour too long.
Despite these shortcomings, the film does offer its fair share of
pleasures - stunning visuals, black comedy and a large dose of Japanese
weirdness. Rampo Noir is not a great film but it is an interesting
addition to the very small genre of "arthouse horror".
The first of the four films sums up everything that is wrong with the project. A naked man running towards a lake is inter-cut with a naked couple wrestling. The film is silent and partly shown in slow motion. I'm sure there was a deep philosophical reason behind this but I was basically too bored to bother considering what it might be. Even the French would be embarrassed by this exercise in pretension. The next segment, Mirror Hell, is an improvement. For starters, it has sound and a narrative. Mirror Hell is a mystery about a mirror that has the nasty habit of burning off faces. The film is not particularly riveting and some of the special effects are clumsy and not very convincing. The segment is saved by some arresting photography and a wonderfully kinky sex scene between Azusa and Toru, which involves a lot of rope and candle wax.
Caterpillar is the third and, in many ways, most successful of the films at pushing the envelope. This film has an edge that the first two segments are sorely missing. The basic premise of the film is a wife who appears to have amputated her husband's arms and legs in order to save him from going to war. This film explores domestic violence and domination from the unusual angle of a female perpetrator. Caterpillar is an interesting thesis about love in one of its most warped incarnations but instead of shedding light on the issues it puts forward, the film is happy to be a kind of Japanese "Boxing Helena", with its focus firmly directed at shock value and titillation. And it is exceedingly successful at meeting these goals. The scenes where the wife makes her limbless husband eat from a dog bowl and then beats him with a riding crop certainly leave an impression, as does a gruesome scene where she cuts off his nipple. The film also offers a large dose of kinky, limbless sex which is portrayed as vilely erotic. Caterpillar is a nasty little film and Rampo Noir is all the better for it.
Crawling Bugs is the fourth and final segment of Rampo Noir. This film once again explores the idea of how the illusion of love can be the catalyst for the most abhorrent situations. Crawling Bugs tells the story of Masaki, a man who can not bear to be touched by other human beings. This obviously affects his chances with Fuyo, so he kills her and takes her home to be his bride. Despite the multitude of possibilities that this scenario offers, Crawling Bugs avoids the explicitness of "Nekromantik" or even "Kissed", and is happy to be blackly comedic. This is ultimately a smart move as Masaki's vain attempts to keep Fuyo from rotting inject Rampo Noir with some much needed humour and offer some pleasant respite from the sometimes overwhelming level of pretension. Crawling Bugs is visually stunning and very well directed. The gore effects are convincing and the film walks the fine line between the surreal and the plain disgusting with great skill.
Rampo Noir desperately tries to push the boundaries of mainstream cinema but never quite succeeds. In comparison to many of the films emerging from Asia, Rampo Noir is actually rather quaint - with the exception of the large quantity of kinky sex. However, the concept is an interesting one and it offers the opportunity to explore the work of four promising Japanese directors. Rampo Noir is no "Three Extremes" but is worth watching, particularly for the crazy woman with a riding crop.
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Mind-blowing!, 7 October 2008
Author: polysicsarebest from IN
Uh.. wow. Here's one you will never forget. Four disgusting and insane
shorts that seem loosely connected at times (themes of torture,
mirrors, obsession, love, bugs, and.. uh.. Tadanobou Asano are in most
of the shorts), all lovingly filmed by 4 different directors. Great
acting and beautiful visuals throughout and never a dull moment in its
2 hour running time, this film is actually shockingly beautiful and
very experimental at times (see the first story which is completely
silent) and is just so full of ideas and life that it should be
required viewing for everyone who's into cinema that's a little bit
different than the norm.
Much more so than the overrated 3... Extremes, this is a film that actually manages to disturb you with its images. Just try getting the images of a disgusting, drooling, dying human caterpillar or a very realistic decomposing corpse out of your head. However, what really sets this film apart are actually the BEAUTIFUL visuals. I can't really describe what makes them so beautiful; you just have to see them.
Completely unnerving and endlessly fascinating throughout, this is definitely some kind of masterpiece that doesn't have any of the monotony that bogs down most pictures of this type. In fact, it's hard to choose a favorite short amongst the 4, because they're all so good! Highly recommended.
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
The great Sato returns with a bizarre anthology entry, 17 June 2006
Author: fertilecelluloid from Mountains of Madness
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an anthology film comprising four stories. The third story, "Caterpillar", directed by Hisayasu Sato ("Lolita Vibrator Torture", "Naked Blood") is the most horrific of the bunch. It plays like a big budget Guinea Pig episode and focuses on a man whose limbs have been lopped off by his wife. He wriggles about like a caterpillar, spewing bile and oozing pus, and enjoys a spot of cunnilingus now and then. The lighting is beautiful, the production design is handsome, and Sato has never directed anything so lush. The other three stories are also interesting, although the first story, about a devious mirror maker, is very slow. Final story, about a weird man's obsession with an actress, possesses a surreal quality and is dazzling to look at. The fourth story is so short it's hardly worth commenting on. All stories were inspired by Japan's Edgar Allen Poe, Edogowa Rampo, a splendid author of dark tales who was inspired enough by Poe to take his name. Terrific to see a film of such quality that is not afraid to offend or confront. I was reminded of Hideshi Hino's wonderful work while watching this and highly recommend you chase down "Caterpillar".
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A Nutshell Review: Rampo Noir, 30 August 2009
Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
Rampo Noir consists of 4 short stories adapted from the works of
novelist Edogawa Rampo, with each segment helmed by a different
director. Starring art-house regular Tadanobu Asano as almost different
characters spanning across the shorts, this film, to put it mildly,
should excite art-house lovers since it stars one of their idols, but
everyone else, unless you have spare capacity for the bizarre, would
likely want to steer clear of this. For omnibus films, you'd come to
expect varying standards and levels of enjoyment, and this film is no
The first short Mars Canal (Kasei No Unga) directed by Suguru Takeuchi is probably the weirdest of the lot, and the shortest, which consists of dizzying camera work and a non- linera narrative, if there is one anywhere to begin with. Asano stars in his birthday suit as he goes through an intense battle with a girl on a filthy floor, screaming, yelling, kicking, before he finds some peace by dropping himself into a pond of water. You heard me, and it is bewildering. I think if I were to film a toilet scene with a man pooping, that'll make a more interesting subject matter, and I'll throw in sound effects to boot too.
Mirror Hell (Kagami Jigoku) is probably the more palatable of the lot. Directed by Akio Jissoji), Asano plays detective Kogoro Akechi, who's called upon when a series of bizarre murders take place, all linking the victims with strange mirrors in their possession when they meet their demise. Their faces get considerably disfigured, though you don't get to see it verbatim save for a stylized sequence of what may look like acid chewing through flesh. It is here that the narrative moots the point, with reflections, about what is real and what is actually through the looking glass, and has very nice sets made up of full length mirrors that I always tend to look closely at to spot the camera crew. But the narrative will fizzle out in the end because it has to comply with art-house sensibilities, and I felt it left everyone hanging midway without a proper resolution.
Caterpillar (Imomushi) by Hisayasu Sato plays with the caterpillar/butterfly motif. A war veteran, severely disfigured and without any limbs, is left at the mercies of his sadistic wife (Yukiko Okamoto) to take care of him, and is subject to her horniness and liking for S&M sexual torture. For starters you might think that the wife is nothing short of dutiful, responsible and full of love, having removed all traces of mirrors and reflective surfaces so that he won't feel depressed with how he looked (seriously, if you're in that kind of state, you don't need a mirror to know you're screwed), but there's nothing to protect him from the dangers from within - his own wife. There's probably no proper point to this other than an exercise on cruelty against the disabled, and a measure of how sick one can be in pushing the tolerance envelope.
The last short, Crawling Bugs (Mushi), tells of a man's obsession with a woman. Asano returns to star as a different character, this time a limo driver who is infatuated with his client, a beautiful actress (Tamaki Ogawa). This segment got convoluted no thanks to its repetitive and fragmented storyline, which treads once again on reality and perceived reality, what worked to its advantage here is the lush visuals filled with saturated pop colours. You might wonder if director Atsushi Kaneko was schizophrenic in its delivery of this messed up piece, which continues to baffle especially after your energy's sapped by the previous installments to care any more.
If there's a running, unifying theme here, then it'll be the idea of reality (as usual with an art-house flick), and this shows in all the inter-titles used throughout the films, which is written in a mirror image. There's more visual style than solid substance here in driving the films, and I think a trip to the bookstore for the translated works of Rampo Noir might help in digesting some of these stories, and whether or not the filmmakers here had gone to extreme lengths in disfiguring the narrative of the source material. Recommended to those with a large bandwidth of attention.
8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Art Horror anthology succeeds and fails, 8 September 2006
Author: Chung Mo from NYC
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Without actually reading a Rampo story, viewers (including me) might be
at a be disadvantage appreciating this production. Long, arty in good
ways and bad, disturbing and gory at times, this is not an off the
shelf horror film even for Japan.
The four directors bring their individual talents to each story. The first story is the most abstract and while very beautiful at times passes like an avant-garde experimental film, evocative imagery to be evoked by few.
The second story is by bad boy director Akio Jissoji. Like other films from his 40 year career it's filled with incredible visual compositions and scenes of S/M sex. The story is reasonably good and the closest to a normal plot in the entire film. The ridiculous S/M scene excluded, this segment works well.
The third by Sato, focuses on mutilation and torment, as a woman "cares" for her "caterpillar" war hero husband. Care includes whipping the invalid and slicing his nipple off. The entire segment takes place in a destroyed bunker, apparently right after or during WWII. The married couple share the bunker with the woman's uncle's assistant who watches over a hidden art collection. The uncle has left for an "island". Bizarre and perverse, this segment is tough to watch at times and not because of the effects. The behavior is very weird and disturbing.
The fourth, apparently by a first time director, is the weakest visually although it has some excellent set design. A rash afflicted limo driver with an extreme germ phobia longs for his boss, a beautiful theater actress. This segment is essentially a head long dive into madness as the driver kills the actress to "save" her from her boyfriend who places weird leeches on her neck. The story shifts gears as the driver now has to deal with the germs rotting her body. While well photographed, after the Caterpillar segment I needed something paced better. The black humor is a relief but this one just takes too long until we get to the very disgusting ending.
Total together? Moderately entertaining for segments two and three. The film has a typical Japanese running theme of violence against women. Even the third segment ends with the woman character getting something done to her by a man. Director Jissoji has been doing films like this for 40 years, get over it man! While the misogyny might not mean anything to you (it's probably the reason some will watch it) the acting might be more of an issue. There's been an unfortunate trend in recent Japanese movies to hire rock and roll pretty boys instead of accomplished actors. Both segments two and three suffer as important parts are given to actors who can't really do the roles. The S/M scene in segment two is just awful because of it.
An interesting experiment in anthology horror. Is about as successful as the Italian/French "Spirits of the Damned" from the 1960's. More disgusting however.
6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Creepy and Kinky Art!, 10 June 2006
Author: jaycbird from Atlanta and San Francisco
"Rampo Noir" (Rampo Jigoku) is a gorgeous, creepy, kinky to the extreme as well as beautifully conceived and well crafted compendium of four stories by Japanese author Edogawa Rampo (a transliteration of Edgar Allan Poe and the nom de plume of Taro Hirai): "Mars Canal", "Mirror Hell", "The Caterpillar" and "Crawling Bugs". "Mars Canal" bookends the program and launches us into the three other nightmares. "Mirror Hell" was fun and simply GORGEOUS to look at! "The Caterpillar" (which is the pet name a woman has given her husband for horridly KINKY reasons!) totally CREEPED me out! "Crawling Bugs" was dizzyingly lovely to look at, though quite unnerving as the lead character's 'dilemma' was eerily reminiscent of one of my best friends! It has been released on DVD (region 3) in Japan and I. Must. Have. IT!!
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Elegant Japanese Horror Chiller, 22 August 2010
Author: zardoz-13 from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Rampo Noir" is clearly not fare for everybody. This beautifully
lensed, elegantly crafted anthology of four chilling tales of horror
adapted from the writings by the Edgar Allan Poe of Japan, Taro Hirai,
a.k.a. Edogawa Rampo, falls far short of perfection. Nevertheless,
these films are a good stab in the right direction. Mind you, there is
nothing horrific here in the sense of grotesque monsters that strangle
nubile babes. "Rampo Noir" isn't a lowest common denominator horror
film. If you want something with blood, gore, and more, you're looking
at the wrong movie. "Rampo Noir" is sophisticated, ambiguous, art-house
horror several steps above the old television anthology shows "The
Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery." These stories are not the kind of
chillers that will keep you awake at night with a security light on,
but they will definitely mess with your mind. This is the kind of stuff
that you savor and watch over and over unless you cannot handle this
kind of horror.
The four films are entitled "Mars Canal" and it differs from the other three because it is the shortest, lacks sound, and is wholly experimental. Freshman helmer Suguru Takeuchi's "Mars Canal" concerns a naked fellow (Tadanobu Asano of "Ichi the Killer") who cavorts in a lush landscape and has memories of beating up his sex partner. There is no logical ending in this surreal saga. The remaining three are more conventional, but calling them conventional may be misleading considering their subject matter.
Director Akio Jissoji's "Mirror Hell" is a murder mystery where the authorities discover the bodies of several women who have had their faces incinerated like a microwave. The police find gorgeous hand mirrors at the scene of each death. "Mirror Hell" is the most coherent of the quartet. People in the mood for kinky sex with a candle will enjoy scene between Azusa and Toru which contains the use of rope and candle wax.
The third offering, director Hisayasu Sato's "Caterpillar," isn't as bizarre as the final entry "Crawling Bugs." Nevertheless, it qualifies as every bit as perverted as you may not be able to imagine, much less tolerate. Indeed, "Caterpillar" forms the make-it or-break-it entry. A possessive wife has amputated her husband's arms and legs to prevent him from going to war. First Lieutenant Sunaga (Nao Omori) can still see and drool. The hero's embittered wife vents her frustration and rage on him. She slashes one of his nipples with a shiny straight razor and later she lashes his bare back repeatedly with a bullwhip. She puts the B in ITCH! The poor fellow is powerless to resist her depredations. He has to absorb her anger. Later, the wife has sex with her husband and allows him to enjoy Comparing "Caterpillar" to "Johnny Got His Gun" is partially correct, but "Boxing Helena" might be more appropriate for this surreal and abusive Japanese yarn. Ultimately, the wife mutilates herself out of guilt while a third party photographs her in a wasteland.
The final entry is Manga artist Atsushi Kaneko's "Crawling Bugs," and it is roughly similar to director William Friedkin's 2005 chiller "Bug" with Ashley Judd. In this tale, a chauffeur afflicted with a paranoia for bugs kidnaps a celebrity stage actress, strangles her, and paints her body. Predictably, things turn even uglier before it is over and the authorities put his head out of the bloated corpse's body. Ultimately, "Rampo Noir" pushes the envelope of mainstream cinema, but it doesn't warp you as much as it ought to have. Watching "Ramp Noir" is like slicing your hand up with a straight razor and thinking about the way the blood leaks through your fingers instead of pain that you are needlessly inflicting on yourself.
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Since I fell in love with you my life has been hell, 30 May 2007
Author: christopher-underwood from Greenwich - London
Lengthy anthology of films made from stories by Edogowa Rampo, that all seem to revolve around obsessive love and the consequences of feeling; 'Since I fell in love with you my life has been hell'. First up, 'Mars Canal' comprises a naked man walking across what appears to be a lunar landscape and recalling a naked fight with a lover (?). Not much in this one for me and 'experimental' would probably be the correct tag. Next up, Mirror Hell was a fairly interesting but rather convoluted tale involving mirrors and ladies dying after a tea ceremony. I liked a lot of this but thought it could have been better told. Caterpillar, I thought was masterful. We are confronted with a mere torso and head of a man who is being further injured and degraded (and whipped) by his wife. She says he has returned injured from war and only she can bear to face him but certainly does not treat him very 'lovingly' as we would conceive of the word. There is a lot here of love and hate, of need and possession and although it is at times very hard to watch I was most impressed. The final, Crawling Bugs, doesn't quite match up to the Sato film but is well shot and certainly well worth watching. All told a surprisingly good quartet and tempts one towards the writings of the mysterious, Mr Rampo.
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