Kimy˘ na sÔkasu (Strange Circus) (2005)
From the director of the cult hit Suicide Club comes an unsettling look at the life of a sexually-abused adolescent whose inability to distinguish her mother's pleasure from her own pain sends her down a dark and surreal path. Sexually molested by her father Gozu (Hiroshi Oguchi) and mentally tormented by her jealous mother Sayuri (Masumi Miyazaki), twelve-year old Mitsuko (Rie Kuwana) is locked in a cello case and forced to watch her parents perform a series of intimate acts. When Mitsuko's mother dies as the result of a fatal fall, the deeply disturbed young girl begins to believe that she has, in fact, been transformed into her own mother. Her father viewing the death of his wife and mental malaise of his daughter as a motivator to ramp up the incestuous relations with his increasingly unhinged offspring, Mitsuko eventually ends up restricted to a wheelchair following a failed suicide attempt. Later, it begins to appear that the preceding events were nothing more than the details of a new novel by reclusive, wheelchair-bound author Taeko (also Miyazaki). When Taeko's trusted editor places his fey personal assistant Yuji (Issei Ishida) in charge of the successful writer, the probing Yuji launches a clandestine investigation into Taeko's background while simultaneously being forced to satisfy her deepest and darkest fantasies. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Kimy˘ na sÔkasu (Strange Circus)
Audience Reviews for Kimy˘ na sÔkasu (Strange Circus)
Asian horror has established its own brand over the last decade. A lot of Korean and Japanese horror productions are known for their extremely lurid content that leaves nothing to imagination. One can't help but admit that the writer/directors responsible for crafting these terrifying films push the boundaries of their imagination and go all out in penning down material for their films.
Only the effort taken in writing scripts of this sort is slowly beginning to shape into a formula of sorts, with Asian horror becoming synonymous with a set of keywords representing the ingredients of a perfect Asian horror recipe: blurred lines between reality and illusion, repressed guilt, psychological trauma, family tragedy, rape, incest, grisly acts of vengeance, over-the-top, gory acts of violence, wildly perverse fetishes and finally a lengthy revelation in the form of a "twist" that turns the story over its head, being the most prominent ingredients in any dish cooked in the hellish kitchen of Asian horror cinema!
This Japanese offering, "Strange Circus" (2005), lives up to its name and churns out a highly macabre and disturbing dish for us viewers as it shoves our heads right into the twisted world of a 12 year old girl, Mitsuko.
Mitsuko is the daughter of Gozo (Hiroshi ďguchi), a horny old, perverted principal of some grotesque-looking school; the kind that looks like something straight out of someone's wet nightmare. Gozo has animalistic sex with his wife, Sayuri (Masumi Miyazaki) and is seen by Mitsuko, in the act, one night, which triggers off a chain of gross-out events. Gozo gets a different kind of high, knowing Mitsuko saw them! He then proceeds to make her watch, from within a huge cello case, through a peephole, as he has more sex with his wife! By this time he has started raping Mitsuko too! It is only a matter of time, before Sayuri discovers the shocking truth of what Gozo is doing to their daughter! But, wait...this is not going to turn into a conventional drama of the mother trying to protect her daughter! What happens is all the more bizarre! Sayuri is engulfed with jealous rage over the fact that she has to share her husband with her daughter, and starts becoming abusive towards Mitsuko, finding the most trivial of excuses to start thrashing her!
A circus indeed, this, and all these players, the animals; some wild and some meek! Just when you think the narrative couldn't take any direction different from here, the story apparently takes a leap forward, or it makes a sudden transition of sorts, and we are shown that all these happenings are being written down as novels, starring a character named Mitsuko, by a wheel-chaired writer by the name of Taeko (Masumi Miyazaki again)! So what are we to believe now? Has this all been a work of fiction? Or is Taeko the grown-up Mitsuko, surviving her father's torment and penning down her autobiography in these novels? And what about the mysterious Yuji (Issei Ishida), the effeminate assistant of the publishers who claims to be Taeko's fan?
Writer-director Shion Sono doesn't leave any stone unturned in disgusting his viewer! What we see is far from pleasing; in fact it is sickening, not just the monstrous deeds of Gozo, but also the claustrophobic atmosphere created. It successfully manages to suffocate, as we find ourselves gasping for a breath of fresh air at the end of the first 40 minutes! Gozo and his family live in a mansion-like home, which still seems like a locked up house, devoid of any contact with the outside world! A school is shown, but is it only in Mitsuko's head? How else does one explain the nightmarish sets of corridors made out of vivid, blood-soaked walls, the principal's dark cabin that has a pornographic clip playing from a projector, complete with soundtrack, that eventually becomes the venue for Gozo's first sexual encounter with his daughter; a large TV screen, that only displays a close-up image of the eyes of Gozo, which is dragged inside the classroom as he delivers some speeches for his students and faculty! Maybe the whole school/Principal thing is just symbolic of how Gozo has the power over everything; in this case the only world Mitsuko knows, that's her small family? It doesn't take one long to figure out that certain surreal scenes are an exaggerated manifestation of Mitsuko's (?) oppressed psyche; like the recurring motif of a garish circus with the cross-dressing MC and the ferris wheel that makes a creaking sound that's deafening to Mitsuko!
At times, the sex, rape, talk of sex and libido seems a bit too gratuitous and tasteless. It's all over the place, to the extent of being hilarious too! More than 70% of the time Gozo is on screen, he is screwing someone in various positions! Even in one sad scene, a wheel-chaired Mitsuko walks in on him when he is surrounded by hookers and he is having sex with one of them in the living room! The effeminate Yuji is an important character, but there's something unsettling about his sexually ambiguous ways! It also gets irksome after a while when Taeko who has taken a liking to Yuji starts mimicking him repeatedly whenever he says "yes" in response!
There are hints dropped all along though, as to where the film is heading! People familiar with some other Asian horror may even be able to see what's to come, but others will surely be in for a huge surprise during the big revelation that unfolds over almost the final 20 minutes, in a ghastly climax of severed limbs and chainsaws and deafening, hysterical outbursts! It is a culmination that will either seem "mind-blowing" or will seem like the makers are cheating the audiences; nonetheless it doesn't take away from the fact, that it sure does catch us off guard after a considerably gripping build-up of suspense. The gorgeous cinematography aptly captures the imaginative and colorful sets and the tone of the film is set in a manner so as to be disconcerting. Despite all the shrieking and wildly over-the-top acting, it is Masumi Miyazaki that runs away with the laurels. She surely deserves the acting accolades. It is a daring performance by an actress who is as beautiful as she is talented.
This is one circus you don't want to take your kids or family to. And it is definitely not meant for the squeamish. Take a trip....if you dare!
In the style of his previous effort, Suicide Circle, Sion Sono deals with a difficult and dark subject in a horrific and slightly perverse way. He handles the scenes of child abuse with a twisted sense of genius. Our protagonist says how when she is abused she "becomes" her mother. In the visual medium of film, this literally happens. Although this makes it possible for us to endure, the performances never allow us to forget who the character is meant to be. The plot soon starts to become even more twisted as it is not clear what is real, what is part of a novel and so on. There are dream sequences, memories and prose all tangling together to make a very unique narrative. At the end it all goes a bit too far and is bogged down by excessive exposition (I didn't need the dialogue, the unbuttoning of the shirt was enough to put the pieces together). The music is also fantastic, bridging the gap between Fargo's magnificent theme and the music of Amelie. It's certainly a difficult watch, but a rewarding one.More
Many call Suicide Club Sion Sono's finest film, and you'd be hard-pressed to argue that it had a lot of great qualities. But for all its imagination, it was incoherent and the only thing that really left any impact was the filming. Strange Circus, on the other hand, is the product of a filmmaker who has matured and found focus, a wonderfully honed work that manages to be complex without purposeful obfuscation. It treads an interesting line between bizarre exploitation flick and schizophrenic, tormented narrative, and is one of the more unique films I've seen recently.
The first half hour of the film really gets you in the gut. Basically, it's about a young girl named Mitsuko who is forced to watch her parents have sex, raped repeatedly by her father who is ALSO the principal of her school, then chased and beaten by her gradually maddening mother every day to the point where Mitsuko tries to attempt suicide. And most of you have probably stopped reading by now.
This all is horrifically lurid, but it turns out to be the creation of a writer named Taeko, a paraplegic nymphomaniac who refuses to appear in public. It's through this that Sion Sono finds his justification for doing all these horrible things to a young girl - the implication is that, despite being a work of fiction, this all happened to Taeko - but it's still uncomfortable to sit through and that's one of my problems with the film. Kudos to the young actress, who can't have had much fun on this shoot.
Anyway, the fact that Taeko is writing this way over-the-top depiction of household abuse lets Sono get away with all sorts of fun stuff. There's this ridiculously bad circus metaphor running through the whole movie, and we get to see a variety of fun-house freaks parading around in Mitsuko's psyche. There are really ribald, decidedly unsexy depictions of sex, all sorts of self-mutilation hijinks, and even chainsaw dismemberments. It's basically Suicide Club firing on all cylinders, four parts art and two parts badness.
This all is amplified by Masumi Miyazaki, who plays both Mitsuko's mother Sayuri and Taeko. It is an absolutely beyond-the-call performance. There are so many emotions she has to express, so much to keep her head above, and she does it all perfectly. She knows when to play it straight and when to take it into Camp Land, but most effectively, she knows how to blur the line between the two, which allows for all sorts of reinterpretation and theorizing. She simply makes the movie. I was a little skeptical of her performance at first because it's in a different language, but next to Issei Ishida, who plays the assistant editor and body artist assigned to find the truth about Taeko, she's still fantastic. On the other hand, his acclimation to the insane final act is a lot less difficult to believe.
The ending, on that note, is a little long-winded, but there's so much room for richness and speculation. Unlike Suicide Club, this movie actually lends itself to rational thought, instead of throwing things that seem artistic and meaningful at the viewer and letting them cobble something stupid together. Or maybe I'm just reading into this much more than I did Suicide Club. Goddamn it, Sono, the things you're doing to me.
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