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Three Extremes (Miike Takashi, Fruit Chan, Park Chanwook, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, 2004, 122 minutes)

I have recently been the recipient of copies of Three Extremes, a new ‘film a sketches’, as the French used to call them, with episodes contributed by the Japanese Miike Takashi, the Chinese Fruit Chan and the Korean Park Chanwook. Many thanks to those who sent me first the DVD of the breakout feature length version of the Fruit Chan ep. and a video copy of all three episodes as they have been screened theatrically in Asia and will (surely?) be screened at one or more of the film festivals later this year. The Miike episode, Box, is one of his most enigmatically sedate works, though its story has a very unnerving quality. It is about a woman haunted by the death of her sister…or not. As usual when Miike takes on this sort of material, he leaves a nice kicker twist for the end. It’s not of the order of Audition (where an Ozu theme gets invaded by John Carpenter horror) but beautifully done and perfect for the forty minute length. The Korean contribution, Cut, is actually more like a Miike film except the director refrains from showing the sort of elements that might shock which Miike routinely employs –fingers glued to a piano and then hacked off etc – all a little too conventional. But the Fruit Chan film is something else, especially if you get the chance to watch the 90 plus minute version available on DVD as a separate edition. Chan has a way of burrowing into Chinese customs, superstitions and practices that can really put you on edge. This one, Dumplings, is about the eternal search for the fountain of youth. Its what the Chinese nouveau riche spend their money on and involves illegally obtained embryos available at a price if you know who to bribe in the right mainland hospital. I think you might already know what’s going on here. If it comes to a festival near you don’t miss it. I suspect that the tender hearts of our broadcasting services might feel that this episode is a touch …well…. extreme.


Charles Chaplin’s late film has been available on DVD in Australia for some time. I found it recently remaindered for $10 in a Pitt Street store called Cheap Discs. The copy is quite acceptable but what makes it interesting is that it contains a rather remarkable piece of film archaeology. In Limelight Chaplin plays a has-been vaudeville performer who through circumstances is brought back for one last great show. But one of the flashbacks to his great past has a routine in which Chaplin/Calvero is the master of a flea circus and involves him cracking a whip and using his head and eyes to indicate that the unseen or unseeable flea is doing amazing tricks. The DVD contains a piece of film from what it says is an unfinished Chaplin film called The Professor in which the Chaplin, here easchewing the character of the Tramp, is a flea circus proprietor who checks in to a seedy doss house and allows his fleas to escape. The imagination and invention in the 1919 film are rather greater than in the flashback in Limelight but that’s not important. The rediscovery is another little step in recovering all our film history. How it came to be, and be included, is not explained.