Friday, April 30, 2010

[HvEXAS] New York Times review of HOUSE (screening at Proctors 5/7)


HOUSE is screening in the GE Theatre at Proctors, along with an equally insane 2nd feature (the title of which will be revealed at the event), as part of an "It Came From Schenectady" evening titled A WHOLE NEW LEVEL OF AWESOME.

Friday, May 7, 2010 @ 7pm
Tickets $8

GE Theatre at Proctors
432 State Street
Schenectady, NY

New York Times review of HOUSE (aka HAUSU)
by Manohla Dargis

Delirious, deranged, gonzo or just gone, baby, gone — no single adjective or even a pileup does justice to "House," a 1977 Japanese haunted-house freakout. Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, this energetic exemplar of pulp surrealism began surfacing in the United States last year, playing at events like the New York Asian Film Festival. Now, in advance of the Criterion DVD, which will be released later this year, it is receiving its first, must-see-now domestic theatrical run. A midnight movie in lysergic spirit and vibe, this was a film made for late-night screening and screaming.

This Old 'House'

The yelps you'll hear and possibly emit, though, will be of surprise and delight, not terror. "House," which turns on a misbegotten, increasingly violent trip taken by seven teenage girls, is not in the least scary, despite its body count and gore. If the hairs on your neck snap to attention, it will be only because of Mr. Obayashi's flamboyant visual style, his comic flights of fancy and genre manipulations. This might be about a haunted house, but it's the film that is more truly possessed: in one scene a piano bites off the fingers of a musician tickling its keys; in another a severed head tries to take a bite out of a girl's rear, snapping at the derrière as if it were an apple. Later a roomful of futons goes on the attack.

The decapitated noggin also flies through the air, but that's getting, um, ahead of the story, which opens with two uniformed teenage girls putting on a little photo shoot, prettily posing and laughing. You quickly discover that one, who's known as Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), a moniker used by both her friends and father (Saho Sasazawa), is the center from which all the other chaotic parts flow and twist. Although she seems like a model daughter (her insistent smile could light up Tokyo or at least a toothpaste commercial), she churns with jealousy after her father introduces her to his new girlfriend, Ryoko (Haruko Wanibuchi), another wide-smiling beauty whose lightly billowing hair and clothes suggest that she keeps company with an off-screen wind machine.

In a bid to get away from home, Gorgeous decides to visit her dead mother's sister (Yoko Minamida). The aunt agrees in a letter that arrives, partly or so it seems, with the help of a white cat that inexplicably materializes one day. Gorgeous enlists six of her friends as accompaniment, a giggling retinue of nymphs fancifully named Sweet, Melody, Fantasy, Prof, Mac and Kung Fu. Traveling by train, wheels and foot, they arrive at an isolated house, where the aunt, who's in a wheelchair (if not for long!), lives with her white cat, whose eyes beam out ominous green sparks and who has been immortalized in artwork throughout the house. Things soon start to go very badly for the teenagers.

"House" was Mr. Obayashi's first feature, and at times it feels as if he threw everything — every movie he had ever seen, every idea he had ever entertained — at the screen, using the horror genre as a big box into which he could combine the bits and pieces he wanted to sample from avant-garde cinema, Looney Tunes cartoons, schlock Italian horror and martial arts movies. One of the most arresting sequences, featuring pinwheeling female body parts, brings to mind various Surrealist collages and that movement's representations of dismembered female forms.

The press notes for "House" state that the story originated from the "eccentric musings" of his 11-year-old daughter, a nice, perverse touch. Whether "House" was her fantasy or his, Mr. Obayashi has created a true fever dream of a film, one in which the young female imagination — that of his daughter, Gorgeous or both — yields memorable results.

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