Director: Akio Jissoji/ Atsushi Kaneko/ Hisayasu Sato/ Suguru Takeuchi
NOT WORTH YOUR TIME
This omnibus horror film seems to offer some of the pleasures of narrative, but don’t be fooled. Rampo Noir is an art film through and through. Since the stories are only tangentially logical, what you are left with is a subterranean horror, a pall of queasiness. Not my cup of sake.
However, in all fairness, I have to admit that Rampo Noir is quite formally beautiful.
The first section, Mars Canal, consists of images of a man in a desolate area next to a sink hole, cross cut with images of a violent encounter with a naked woman. The soundtrack is either dead silence or noise reminiscent of radio wave transmissions from outer space. The overall effect is evocative and spooky. Evocative of what, I’m not sure, but definitely disturbing.
The second tale, Mirror Hell, is ostensibly a mystery. Several women are founded with their faces burnt off (mercifully never shown) — the link to each death is a handmade mirror. The resolution of the mystery is fanciful. What counts is the images, which are sublime and sick in equal measure.
In the next sequence, Caterpillar, the wife of a crippled war hero gets off sexually by torturing her husband. You would think there would be some sick fun in that, as well as an opportunity to examine society’s notions of marital obligation versus human nature, but you’d be wrong. This segment, like all of Rampo Noir, is filmed in an abstract way that emphasizes visuals and atmosphere over story and meaning.
I’ll have to be honest. I stopped watching Rampo Noir about 70 minutes in. While I was impressed by the beauty of the images, I was sickened by the filmmakers’ intentions, which is to provide an atmosphere of unrelieved dread and depravity without any possibility of catharsis or insight.
Personally, I watch horror films in order to hold up a distorted mirror to society, not merely to be sickened and appalled by depraved imagery. You have been warned.