Asian American Film Festival NYC

Last night, we checked out the second leg of the 30th Asian American International Film Festival at the Japan Society in NYC. We started out with a series of animated shorts created by Japanese independent filmakers. The majority of the shorts eschewed any verbal communication and were scored by ambient/techno music. I appreciated the variety of styles which ranged from lo-fi prehistoric video game flavored graphics to claymation and highly stylized sketch art. The more memorable cuts delivered political and environmental messages through powerfully symbolic storytelling. My favorite featured a parade of sheep which put smokers to sleep, turned off excessive lighting within cities and beamed into space bouncing off satellites and returning to a greener earth. Very cute and resourceful sheep!

The main feature was "Exte"(Hair Extensions) a wonderfully humorous horror film starring Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill). The story centers on a delusional morgue janitor played by Ren Osugi, who steals a female corpse when he discovers that it keeps growing strands of black hair. Osugi is hilarious with his deranged singing, dancing and plain awkwardness. His hair fetish drives him to cut the strands of hair and sells them as hair extensions. The extensions angrily come to life - choking the unsuspecting women who choose to wear them. The evil hair uncontrollably grows - spilling out of eyes, skin and mouths until finally filling the room and suffocating its victim. Kuriyama sweetly plays the heroine/assistant hairstylist, who must overcome her past, deal with a villainous sister and care for her abused and abandoned niece. Plus she has to save herself and her abused niece from the evil hair extensions. Talk about a bad hair day!

A Q&A with director Sion Sono followed the film. It was a treat to hear him talk about the creative process which led to such a wild film. While many of the audience tried to delve into the social messages of criticizing fashion and conformism or abuse, Sono maintained that these issues may be apparent but his main purpose was simply to entertain. He found the popular trend of using hair extensions as strange since no one really knows where this hair comes from. The focus on hair was also a critical parody of J-horror films which often use girls with very long black hair. The funniest exchange occured when someone asked him of his opinion of the Hollywood remakes of J-horror movies such as "The Ring" or "The Grudge". He began to admonish their versions then quickly covered his mouth, eyed the audience and stated he would be happy to direct a hollywood remake.


Find It