Koji Shiraishi's Grotesque could easily be dismissed as torture porn trash and if you wanted to do so I wouldn't put up much of an argument attempting to change your mind. When, after reading my post on "A Serbian Film," Femme Fatale expressed her desire to attend a film with me during Another Hole in the Head, I suggested we see this one together. We met at Dalva next door for a cocktail, because I was sure at least one drink would probably be a good idea before seeing the only film to have been recently banned in Britain.
The plot is simple. A young couple, out on their first date, is kidnapped and held in the basement/torture chamber of a crazy doctor who wants to seek his own sexual pleasure by torturing them. If they do as he says he will release them once he had his jollies. That's the plot.
For the next hour the doctor does just that. I won't go into details because if you want to read about that kind of stuff you should just go see the movie, which has two more screenings during the festival (July 18th & 22nd). There's a respite in the middle where the couple is recuperating, thinking they'll be set free, only to find themselves back in the torture chamber for a second round more vicious and cruel than the first.
It's very sick and twisted material, with no redeeming value to it whatsoever and yet the movie is captivating because of the strong performances and production values. Maybe I'm trying to find a justification for this kind of film because I also thought it raises a couple of interesting questions about masculinity and the stupidity of being in love. The doctor, who by the way has a penchant for listening to Tchaikovsky and Puccini while dismembering his victims (and in this case dismemberment is a very accurate term), asks the young man numerous times if he's willing to die for the young girl, to which he always affirms his willingness. But he hasn't even slept with this girl yet- this is their first date. Foolish boy.
The doctor proceeds to render both of them unable to ever consummate their love and yet still this guy, now memberless, sans one eye and with his intestines trailing behind him, tries to save her in the name of love by executing pointless act of chivalry. It's ridiculous, but the young people's earnestness never rings false and this is why from my perspective the movie isn't easily dismissed as pure trash. Or again, maybe I'm just fooling myself? I don't think so because unlike The Girl Next Door, probably the most vile thing I've ever seen, Grotesque seems more like a parable than just a cinematic excursion into the bottomless depths of human depravity.
When it was all over, Femme Fatale and I made our way over to the Uptown, where we had a few Manhattans amid the low-key, extremely cordial regulars at the bar. She then went her way and I went back downtown, in search of some quick food before catching Antibalas at the Great American Music Hall.