Review: Saam Gaang Yi (Three… Extremes, 2004)

saam gaang yi

Three directors I like together at the same time, nice!

Written By: Haruko Fukushima, Lilian Lee, & Chan-wook Park
Directed By: Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, & Chan-wook Park

*I wrote this review a couple of years ago. Somehow it was lost in a draft and never posted, but I found it the other day so now I present it to my readers*

A trilogy of horror films, not segments because each is full in its own way, from three fabulous directors from three different Asian countries. They share a few commonalities, they are utterly beautiful, filmed with such meticulous detail that I found myself getting lost in the visuals a few times. They are also tied by a theme, the representation of horror. All three directors take different approaches, but there is a natural progression from one story to the next.

First is Dumplings, by Fruit Chan from Hong Kong. This is rooted in reality, it finds it’s horror not in the supernatural, but in the atrocities that can happen right next door to us. This was also made into a feature length film, Jiao Zi, and I’d really like to see that, as well as discover more of Fruit Chan’s work, because this is excellent.

Next is Cut, by Chan-wook Park from South Korea. This is the anti-Saw, because it presents a Saw like scenario, but it is so well acted and so well thought out that it never loses its bite and none of the violence ever feels unnecessary. It also begins to progress the theme as Park-ssi presents a tale of a man who is having a dream, he never lets the audience know this however, it’s up to you to figure it out. He doesn’t actually kill his wife, he dreams of killing his wife, which may be the form of his guilt for killing a previous mistress. Park-ssi says none of this however, it’s all interpreted by the viewer, and it’s brilliant stuff.

Next up is Box by Japan’s Takashi Miike. Slow and meditative, Miike-san presents what appears to be a clear story, or at least a story with clear roots and reasons. But, it is anything but clear. This takes the dream idea further, as it is my interpretation in the end that whereas Cut is about a man who gets knocked unconscious and has a dream, Box is about a woman who is permanently in a dream. Miike-san blends real life horror, incest, with the horror of reality being bent. Unlike most movies that try to tackle the idea of dreams, Miike-san doesn’t concern himself with reality at all. He never once tethers himself to any anchor in the real world, his camera floats from moment to moment and every moment feels like it could be a dream or it could be reality. Box is never forced, it feels natural all the way through, this may be the best dream based film I have ever seen.

I know it’s a lot of hyperbole, but Saam Gaang Yi is amazing, a true taste of how powerful horror can be in the right hands. It’s not for everyone, notably people who have issues with strong subject matter, or people who demand clear narratives where things are spelled out rather bluntly. But, it is a great film and anyone who is into exploring different sides of horror needs to give this a look.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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