Masters of Horror: Imprint
Extremely violent Asian films have had a significant impact among many horror fans in the west. Japanese director Takashi Miike (Audition) is practically synonymous with the genre. When Showtime began its Masters of Horror series—an anthology where a different director would be brought in for every episode—it made sense that Miike would be on board. But Imprint was deemed too violent for TV. True or not, it makes for good DVD publicity—Anchor Bay has released it in a “banned from cable broadcast” edition. The story has a depraved beauty—its central figure is a geisha (Youki Kudoh) who’s attractive save for the disfigured right half of her face. She’s met by an American (Billy Drago, over the top) who’s convinced he knew her years ago. She recounts her tormented past. None of this aims for scares, and beneath the grime and often confounding storytelling, Miike pitches his sideshow as a lesson in the value of kindness. Connoisseurs of the filmmaker shouldn’t be surprised by its extremes, but honestly, it gets rough. Extended torture scenes test my patience these days. As an artist, Miike’s saving grace is that he’s a moralist. He seems genuinely appalled by most of what he puts on screen. Somehow that legitimizes it while making it more painful.