Thursday, June 16, 2011

#539: House

(Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)

House is undoubtedly one of the strangest movies you will ever see. It's also not coincidentally one of the most invigorating from a filmmaking perspective - there are moments here that are so filled with energy and ideas that it reminded me of when I was a kid and I would watch NBA playoff games and get so invested in the sport that I would have to go outside and play myself. House made me want to go into my backyard and make a movie - whatever movie I could, pulled together with camcorders and borrowed friends - and pour my whole being into it.

The plot of the movie would hardly qualify for an episode of The Twilight Zone. A group of teen girls has their vacation canceled, so one of them arranges for the group to visit her dead mother's older sister, whom she hasn't seen in years. As in most movies with a smiling ghost cat on the cover, things don't go as planned. The simple structure, however, is essential when a movie is this insane - there would just be no other way of following along with what's happening once pianos start eating people.

Even in the relatively calm beginning the film establishes its anarchic tone and then rarely lets up. Oddly, parts of the movie reminded me of Godard's A Woman is a Women, particularly moments that seemed more concerned with topical cool than rewarding plot development. But the movie that most came to mind was the comparatively tame Run, Lola, Run, which rode a similar crest of energy and style to international success a decade ago. Both movies have a certain music video aesthetic (though, of course, House was released before music videos became ubiquitous and developed the language we currently identify with the genre) and both films take simple stories and build something extraordinary out of them.  The most notable differences then can be attributed to the general sensibilities of their respective cultures, which in the case of House takes shape as a giant explosion of pop grotesqueries.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about House is that it was a commercial success in Japan. I don't know what that says about Japan, but the idea of a film this strange being successful in the US with anything other than the cult audience that has received it with open arms is almost entirely implausible. Still, the film is so strange, so idiosyncratic, so, well, itself that it refuses to be ignored. House is one step away from a giant disaster in every direction, and yet it is so infused with an unrestrained love of filmmaking that it walks the tightrope beautifully.

No comments:

Post a Comment