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Original Title:
Three Extremes

Japan/Hong Kong/South Korea 2004

Horror, Thriller

Takashi Miike,
Fruit Chan,
Park Chan-wook

Kyoko Hasegawa Bai Ling
Miriam Yeung
Tony Leung Ka Fai
Lee Byung-hun
Kang Hye-jeong
Lim Won-hie

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Three Extremes

Story: The short film "Box" is about female writer Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa), who has to struggle with a gruesome secret of her past. Over and over again she has the same dream, that takes her back into her childhood when she worked at a circus together with her twin sister and their stepfather. Being jealous that her sister was given special treatment by her stepfather, Kyoko took revenge on her sister. Unfortunately, this leads to an accident, whereas her sisters dies in a fire.
The ghost of her sister still seems to haunt her and with time the border between reality, dream, present and past becomes more and more blurry for Kyoko...

In "Dumplings" Mrs. Lee (Miriam Yeung) fights her aging. Not being popular as an actress anymore and being cheated by her husband (Tony Leung Ka Fai) with another woman, she seeks the help of Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), whose "Dumplings" are said to give you back your youth. Even when she discovers the horrible secret of the dumpling's filling, Mrs. Lee continues eating them in order to reattain her former beauty. She even goes some steps further than most women would...

"Cut" tells the story of a successful director (Lee Byung-hun), who is well-known among his colleagues for his kindness. However, one day he gets attacked at home. When he awakes he finds himself on one of his sets of his newest movie. A man from his past has taken the director and his wife as prisoners. The unknown man every 5 minutes cuts off one of his wife's fingers, as long as her husband doesn't kill with his bare hands a little child, that is also tied up. For the prisoners a fight for survival begins.

Review: "Three Extremes" is the sequel to "Three" and is build according to the same principles. Three directors, this time it's Takashi Miike from Japan, Fruit Chan from Hong Kong and Park Chan-wook from Korea, made a short film, that are in no way connected with one another, but feature the same motive. Now, it's about the horror, that is born in the human mind. Three of the best directors of Asia explore in impressive pictures the deep chasm of human psyche and the monster that hides within ourselves.

The worst part of the trilogy is Takashi Miike's "Box". Slowly Miike takes us into Kyoko's life, which is a simple, lonesome and sad one as a female writer. Through her dreams Miike shows us Kyoko's past in distressing surreal pictures. He makes artistic use of dream symbols and stuns the viewer with excellent lighting and somber pictures. His tale of jealousy, hatred and feelings of guilt with a little bit of pedophilia really can distress the viewer and suck him into the movie, but eventually it falters because of the joyless and cold presentation, which is not only achieved by the beautiful snowy landscape, but sadly also by Kyoko Hasegawa's portrayal of her character. The viewer can't identify with her and her character is in general just too shallow. The story is also nothing special and sometimes the pace drags a lot. Only the ending manages to confuse and shock us.
One would have expected more of Takashi Miike, yet he keeps us interested because of an abstract atmosphere. At least he gives us a good indroduction of what to expect of the next short films.

It's not easy to review "Dumplings" after having seen the longer movie version just one day before. Of course, some scenes have been left out and the story's focus is also a little bit different. Nonetheless, you can easily see that "Dumplings" originally was made as a short film. I was also surprised to see a different ending than in the longer version, which I even (please excuse the, because of the movie's theme, inappropriate choice of words) "liked" more.
Fruit Chan's work is disgusting, distressing and shocking. Chan creates a world in which the horrible is nearly seen as something normal and in which the horror becomes even more tense because of this fact (and a lot of allusions).
Apart from Fruit Chan's excellent directing, camera god Christopher Doyle's work has also to get some credit. With great looking pictures and interesting angles he knows how to get the best out of a movie. The famous actors give also their best to make the best of their roles - in the first place, there is Bai Ling, of course.
An abhorrent and interesting movie against beauty contest, that is nothing for people with a weak stomach, and that can fully convince the critics and shock the audience at the same time.

Arguably, the best short film is Park Chan-wook's ("Oldboy") "Cut". His movie is a hell of a ride into the deepest depths of psychological terror.
First of all, the setting is just astonishing. The living room set, where nearly the whole movie takes place, is visually and concerning the colors absolutely stunning. The picture, when the director's wife is attached to several thin wires, sitting at her piano with panic in her eyes and a distorted face, because of her smeared make-up, crying for her life, isn't just artistically very pleasing, but is also very disturbing.

In addition to the great pictures the actors are also very convincing. Especially Lim Won-hie as the unknown psycho imbues the movie with a lot of black humor and yet manages to be terrifying and absolutely crazy. The idea that his motive isn't hatred or vengeance, but jealousy is quite interesting. In fact, the director never did anything to him. But the nameless man can't live with the fact, that he is a nobody, while the director apart from being rich and successful, is also a good person!
The idea to kill an innocent individual to save someone you love is fascinating,although nothing new, as we just have to think of movies like "Battle Royale" or "Saw".
Park's work is in every minute tense, thrilling and even gets more and more intensive until the climax becomes real madness itself. The psychological terror we get to experience with this movie is of highest quality and just has to get near to you. With a great finishing scene, Park manages to give the trilogy a fitting end and finally gives us the chance to gasp for breath again.

The order in which the three parts are presented is just perfect as they qualitatively become better and better. However, on its own every movie is also good till very good. If you like psychological horror you will get your money's worth. A well done sequel to "Three", that makes us hope for a third part!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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