Monday, May 03, 2010


1977, Japan, directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi (Original title: ハウス Hausu)

House defies my rating system - mainly instituted at the request of family members who can't tell whether my musings are positive or negative on occasion - since I wavered between rating it as a deranged masterpiece and a complete mockery of the idea of a feature film. The extraordinary 90 minutes certainly seem to be the product of a coherent, if very singular, imagination, and yet there are moments when the shifts of tone and filming style are so outrageously strange you wonder whether the whole thing was planned or concocted in a giant cinematic blender.

Obayashi certainly throws every possible idea up there on the screen to see what sticks, with flashes of animation, slow-motion, freeze-frames, unexpected singing sequences, girl-eating pianos, buttock-biting heads, and a dreamy teacher with a coterie of admiring schoolgirls. There is a plot of kinds - the schoolgirls plan to spend part of the summer with one girl's aunt at the titular house - but the film is only marginally interested in storyline, playing instead with tone, atmosphere and crafting eye-catching effects (although near the end the fevered atmosphere makes it very hard to distinguish what's actually occurring on screen). While I suspect that a few of the laugh moments weren't in the original script, the film has a unique verve and momentum, as well as some brilliant non sequitur moments where everyone acts as though the bizarreness is really nothing to get worked up about even though the audience is attempting to collectively close its gaping jaw.

(It's hard to really capture a film like this in words: imagine the trailer extended to 90 minutes and you're on the right track).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States