The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Asian horror films more than multicultural

This past week, the Asian and Asian American Association (AAA) presented an impressive program of horror films. AAA officer Ivy Lee ’10 organized the film festival that featured stellar horror flicks “A Tale of Two Sisters,” “Audition,” “The Host,” “Tetsuo” and “The Eye,” which you can still catch tonight at 8 p.m. The films were all shown in the AAA office on the second floor of the JRC. However, since Lee had no access to funds in order to secure distribution rights, she was unable to legally advertise the screenings.
Under the umbrella genre name of Asian horror, the films included in the festival are known for their psychologically taut, painstakingly suspenseful and aesthetically inventive qualities. The festival films come specifically from South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, offering a nice sampling of distinctive filmmaking traditions that are invariably blasphemed by their American remakes—for a belly of laughs, see Jessica Alba botch “The Eye” in the 2008 remake.
In addition to serving up fun, frights and bad remakes, these films are also notable for their lasting imprints on the film world. “A Tale of Two Sisters” marked the first Korean horror, or K-horror, film to be shown in the US. “Audition,” which set box-office records in Korea, has achieved a particularly resonant cult status in America. A scene from it plays in the background of Martin Scorsese’s bloated remake of another Japanese gem, “The Departed,” and pop-punk band My Chemical Romance produced a music video in homage to the Japanese classic. Even self-proclaimed badass Rob Zombie reportedly has difficulty stomaching “Audition”’s gruesome ending. Meanwhile, “Tetsuo”’s gritty cyberpunk aesthetic and awesome premise—a man’s body is slowly replaced by crazed metal parts (think giant drill penis)—is generating a Japanese-American co-produced sequel twenty years after its release.
Tonight’s film, “The Eye,” tells the tale of an eye transplant gone awry. When a young blind woman receives a new set of eyes, the ability to foresee death accompanies her newfound vision. The creepy film boasts a truly transnational cast and crew, starring Malaysian-Taiwanese actress Angelica Lee and Chinese-Canadian actor Lawrence Chou, as well as Singaporean and Thai actors.
As the festival’s organizer and a long-time promoter of Asian cinema at Grinnell, Lee sees the festival as a way to develop conceptions of multiculturalism by incorporating mainstream movies along with distinctly “cultural” films or documentaries. Along with a few other students, Lee is currently tossing around the idea of starting an Asian film library. “Grinnell could definitely do with some kind of an expansion for those underrepresented filmmakers,” Lee said. Given the scarcity of world cinema in the SGA films line-up, such a library is called for, as well as more events like Lee’s horror fest.

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