Sunday, July 13, 2014

Violence in Asian Cinema

The use of violence in Asian cinema is as varied as it is widespread. from live action to animated, comedy to science fiction. It embraces on screen violence with open arms, pushing the boundaries of censorship on a daily basis.But this is not a new phenomena  two of the first short films ever produced in Japan for example Shinin no Sosei and Bake Jinzo while not overly violent the former contained scenes of the resurrection of a corpse. Flash forward to films like Yojimbo (Yôjinbô) or Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) by the quintessential Japanese Film maker Akira Kurosawa and you have scenes of the manic Toshiro Mifune slicing and dicing Ronin and Samurai alike with reckless abandon.

More prominent in recent years films like Battle Royal (Batoru rowaiaru),Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1), Violent Cop (Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki), Visitor Q (Bijitâ Q) pretty much anything my Takashi Miike filling the screen with dismembered bodies with blood squirting from their stumps or the mutilated faces of deranged serial killers, butJapan is not the only source of violent movies, Korean boasts an impressive list of titles, for me personally this list is topped by the outstanding Oldboy, which weaves its twisting plot around an array of breathtaking set pieces, captivating the audience with its intriguing plot as well as some brutal fight scenes. 

Outside of Korean there is the fast paced Raid series, while directed by Welshman Garth Evans boasts an all Indonesian cast, its quick fire action sequences are blindly fast and bone crunchingly ultraviolent.These movies have found a huge audience outside of their countries of origin with acts of violence that would make censors in the rest of the world slap an X or R rating on them quicker than you can say "Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki". The violence would seem over the top in some cases and in others too extreme, but a lot of ways it wouldn't be to wide of a leap to link the violence to Japan's blood soaked history as well, especially in Battle Royal with the disregard for the life of so many Japan's youth, which seemed to represent the drafting Japan's youth during the second world war, but the violence in Battle Royal goes from realistic to cartoon like in the blink of an eye. this is also a common theme within Japanese cinema , the over the top use of gore, and the circumstances in which it is used. For example The Tetsuo series, which takes the genre of body horror to levels of extreme weirdness that would make David Cronenberg blush but at the same time mirrored the over increasing over dependence of Japanese culture on technology, which is seen time and time again in films like Machine Gun Girl (Kataude mashin gâru) and Tokyo Gore Police (Tôkyô zankoku keisatsu)

For a brief period in the early 2000s Asian horror was seeing a surge both at home and in the foreign market. Films like The Ring series, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Host, R-Point, The Grudge series and many more where finding their way into western cinema screens. And the Audiences were lapping it up. Many of these titles were snapped up for what I personally think is one of the most heinous things to come out of the love affair of Asian Horror, the dreaded Hollywood remake.

Animation also plays a big part in Asian cinema , and violence is no stranger here as well. And again it goes from the comedic (Project A-ko) to the extreme 9Fist of the North Star) and sexual (Legend of the Overfiend).  The fact that these features are animated has not led to some of them being scrutinized by censors in the rest of the world

Asian cinema has broken into the western world on a large scale over the last decade and has also influenced directors and writers outside of Japan Quentin Tarantino, Zack Snyder being two of the more well known American directors who have been inspired by films from Japan and have incorporated these influences in their own movies. Tarantino himself played a small part in the Japanese movie Sukiyaki Western Django, which itself was a violent homage to the spaghetti western (which was in itself a tribute to the samurai film genre) The violence is also used to for comedic value as well, in The Happiness of the Katakuris (Katakuri-ke no kôfuku) Takashi (itself a remake of a Korean film) Takashi Miike uses the unfortunate deaths of residents of a halfway house  and the ensuing wackiness of the lengths owners go to to hide the bodies to great comedic value.

Violence in Asian film is common place, and it has more layers than one might think.