Near a remote Buddhist monastery, a young man falls in love with his sister and gets her pregnant. After a monk finds out, the young man becomes an assistant to a master sculptor, only to proceed to complicate matters with his affairs.
There are two reasons this film may have deserved a 2 instead of a 1. The first is that the synopsis I read made it sound like a cool, creepy, supernatural horror movie, and I was really looking forward to a cool, creepy, supernatural horror movie, which it was not. This may have made me somewhat biased against it. Somewhat. Second was a particularly clever scene, which stood out in this particularly unintelligent film. The main character is talking to his priest/book shop owner/yin yang master friend, or more correctly the friend lectures him for about ten minutes about the meaning of reality (this is the film opening, the first example that the directer and writer really had no idea what they where doing). To prove his point the friend places an ornate jar on the table and tells the main character that they are the ashes of Buddha. The main character is shocked his friend has such an item, but when he lifts the lid the jar is revealed to be full of rice crackers. The friend explains "Yes, they are only rice crackers, but before I lifted the lid they could have been anything, even the ashes of Buddha." Later, while investigating missing babies at the Kounji estate the main character and one of the investigators discuss a man who was told his child was stillborn. When the investigator mentions that the man was given his child's ashes, the friend begins eating the rice crackers out of the jar. This was the only interesting thing that happened in the entire movie, and possibly made me not hate it as much as I should have. So maybe it did deserve a 2. On the other hand I've never walked out of a movie before. When I checked the times I only missed the last 5 minutes, so I can safely assure you that this movie sucked.
So what about the plot? There is a rumor going 'round that a woman has been pregnant for 18 months, her husband went missing from a locked room, she lives in a maternity hospital owned and run by her father with a lot of dead babies in it's past (and present), and later it is revealed that her family is under a curse. The main character joins forces with a private eye and helps him investigate these mysteries, occasionally aided by his shrine-keeper, bookstore owner friend. Sounds good doesn't it? Particularly if you're a horror fan. Man you should have seen the poster for this movie, it looked really beautiful, yet creepy, chilling, at the same time, really giving a sense of something supernatural. It was the most misleading poster I have ever seen. By the end all supernatural elements are explained away, something that I hate. If I buy supernatural pie, I wanna eat supernatural pie, I don't want to cut into it and find that it's blueberry goddamn it! However, if the movie had been executed decently or in a way that was at least mildly entertaining the lack of supernatural elements would have simply been irritating, and certainly would not warrant a 1. But, basically, everything about this movie sucked. The plot was run out as one of those mysteries, where the character's walk around looking at stuff, but only finding the vaguest of clues, the audience basically learns nothing until the very end when someone pops up and explains everything. In this movie the vague clues only suggest certain parts of the much larger mystery, most of the answer isn't even hinted at. Neither the "Investigating" nor the final explanation are executed in a way that is even remotely interesting, but then making that form of mystery solving uninteresting is pretty easy. None of the characters are sympathetic or empathetic, though the main character is down right pathetic. At best they are uninteresting, at worst the characters (particularly the main and his love interest) are almost unbearably irritating. The friend is meant to be one of those cool, looked-up-to, know-it-all characters, but he doesn't come off as anything but an asshole. The settings (except for the mansion, ironically) look fake, and are not nearly as interesting as they easily could have been. The effects are shockingly awful, particularly for something made so recently. Even the music was bad. I tell you now, do not see this movie.
As I'm writing this 'Ubume' has a score of 6, and I'm beginning to wonder if I missed something. Was there something in those last 5 minutes that made it all worthwhile? That caused this hunk of crap to suddenly fall into place and reveal itself as something decent? Was it meant to be some kind of parody (if so it did an awful job, I didn't hear so much as a chuckle from a single member of the audience). I saw nothing in this movie that warranted a 6, or even anything over a 2. I saw it at the 10th Japanese film festival in Sydney. When I left after the end of 'Glass Rabbit' four days earlier, I was disappointed that what I thought would be a moving story of a young girl living through World War II turned out to be little more then a poorly paced anti-war propaganda film, yet secure in the knowledge that that would be the worst film I saw at the festival. I should have been so lucky. Do yourself a favor and go see 'Kamikaze Girls' instead.
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