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One Cut of the Dead

Dir: Shinichiro Ueda

Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya & Hiroshi Ichihara.

96mins | Horror, Comedy, Drama | 15

*Spoilers follow for both films reviewed*

The successes of Shoplifters winning the Palm d’Or at Canne is one great success for Japan. With One Cut of the Dead lies another. This sleeper hit has grossed over $30,000,000 dollars, was made on an independent budget of $27,000 and strictly nothing was spent on marketing. With all this unbridled success (and even frequenting film festivals), can this modest film be worth the fuss?

One Cut of the Dead constantly deceives its audience. At first we think we are watching a cheap looking zombie flick, then we break away and see the production of that film and then what appears to be a real zombie breakout. For this part of the film, it feels like a zombie horror version of Russian Arch, a one take film with little compromise for delay or error. We then soon realise that all this is part of the film, as we see credits roll, though this is not the end just yet. As if there were not enough layers to the film, we then see how this film within a film is pitched to director Higurashi (played by the adorable Takayuki Hamatsu) and we see his family life, which soon becomes entangled in the making of live TV horror.

There are many comparisons here to other media and even stage work (Shawn of the Dead, Noises Off, Kiss Me, Kate), though the refreshing originality of the film comes from its last two thirds as we see the production of the film take place. A lot seems to go wrong and it is the frantic anxiety of setting all elements of the film ready for the live shoot that makes for great comedy and tension. The after effects of too much sake, some toilet trouble, diva actors and having to improvise on the spot, all loom during the live broadcast. Even some unintentional method acting is here, as disagreements with cast, crew and Hamatsu’s family begin to ooze into the screen, with some electric moments that enhance the film.

This clever, touching and funny indie film appears to have reached for the stars and made it. This is a wonderful development for the film and we hope to see more from these creative forces soon!          

One Cut of the Dead is now on a limited realise.

Make Me Up

Dir: Rachel Maclean

Starring: Christina Gordon, Rachel Maclean, Colette Tchantcho, Kirsty Strain, Alice Zhang, Jenny Douglas, Sanaa Zaheed, Cressentia Masuku, Moyo Akandé, Catriona McFarlane, Kayleight Andrews, Stewart Preston & Jenny Douglas.

84mins | Arthouse, Comedy | 15

For the past few months, the artwork of Rachel Maclean has been all over Chapter Arts Centre. Having tried to see her exhibition Spite Your Face before seeing the second screening of Make Me Up, I had failed to absorb any of her work. After seeing this, I must frequent the show before it’s simply too late.

Make Me Up is unlike anything you will ever see, though it is somehow startlingly familiar. This fever dream of an arthouse film might appear to be for children, but it certainly is not. Its gaudy colour scheme of pink and blue hues might just burn your eyes, thanks to the extensive use of green screen aesthetic. The tacky CGI also jars, though somehow works in this context as well (I cringed at the Comic Sans font used). The film has a lot to say about women and feminism, which is handled for the most part very well. We see a diverse selection of women (or robots or search engines?) with names like that of online command tools such as Siri and Alexa. They are all stuck within a complex, forced to learn about art history by a demandingly, vampish (if still bright and regimented) Figurehead, played by Maclean. She clearly kept the best role for herself, which she puts buckets of humour and flamboyant detail into. One could easily see this character becoming a drag persona in cult circles.

Christina Gordon is Siri, our plucky protagonist who faces all the bizarre and twisted rituals and humiliations that occur on a regular basis. This Figurehead teaches them on fine art (which they then act out), dubbed entirely by Kenneth Clarke, from his 1960’s show Civilisation. Through this antiquated voice over, Maclean mimes, as screens display silly reimagines of Botticelli, Munch and others. The line “What’s not prohibited must be made compulsory!” speaks volumes.  This is one of the stronger elements of the film, though an increase in volume at times would have helped, as the sound effects also used muffled the speech.

There are elements of Alice in Wonderland meets The Stepford Wives, 1984 meets Soylent Green along with other genres. Even these female participants appear in Kawaii attire: overblown, sexy costumes so they can be easily objectified. One of the more telling elements of the film is the Scottish YouTuber who addresses her audience, aware of her appearance and plans to do something about it. Her insecurities make her think a nose job would make life better with more views, likes and subscribers, an awful trend we have seen on the YouTube platform over the past few years. There are also some seriously weird parts in this work including a woman transformed into a figurative Henry Moore sculpture. Though nothing is as horrifying as that sausage with a face on it. The less I say the better…

What spoiled the magic was the ending, a preachy lecture on what young girls might be going through today. We hear random quotes from Thatcher, The Spice Girls and The Jimmy Kimmel Show to name a few, draining away from the message that was established throughout the film. We as an audience can put two and two together. Though I kept asking myself that issues of weight, mental health and social media also affect young men, therefore not being entirely seen as a woman’s issue. We’ve got to think about the whole picture today. If we address the issues seen with one gender and not the other, that is not the equality people have fought for all these years.   

The was also one of the last 1418 Now commissions, (artwork which commemorated World War One) though it’s labelling in this category is questionable at best. Had the brief scene without a Suffragette in the gallery not been present, would it it have had the context to even apply?

I was left disturbed, confused, disgusted, outraged, yet still inspired.

Feminism as you’ve never seen it. Both weird and wonderful.


One Cut of the Dead: 4 stars

Make Me Up: 3 stars

Rachel Maclean’s Spite Your Face exhibit continues at Chapter Arts Centre till 20th January 2019.

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