Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Marronnier (Marrionnier) (マロニエ) (Run Like Hell) (2004)

Well, this is a pretty bad movie. Actually... this may in fact be the worst movie I've ever seen. And you know what? People need to know about this one. Everyone needs to actually see how bad a movie can be before hitting the singularity of being some crazy man's home videos or something. Because this movie is a few props short of basically being that. I... I can't even believe a movie like this actually exists. (Okay, that's a blatant lie. Yes, there are bad movies out there, and this one isn't even the worst one I've ever seen- although again, it's pretty terrible.)

Junji Ito, what did you do? Why did you do this? Why, Junji Ito? WHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYY!?

As she stares blankly at me, the whys just keep piling up.
Oh boy, this is such an awful movie, but I loved every second of it. I also hated myself ever second I loved it. I mean seriously, I hate those movies that are called so bad they're good. I hate the phrase. I hate the sentiment. This movie is plainly bad. It's never good, never does anything that I could say is even in the same ballpark as good, but I still like it because I'm insane and quite probably demented. Call it a fault of mine. I like bad movies.

I... I have a problem. I have a large problem. People shouldn't like this movie. Marronnier is such a confusing mess of a movie. It shouldn't be a movie that anybody actively enjoys watching... and yet... and yet...
How could anybody say "No" to a face like that?
I was so confused... baffled really... by what was happening if anything was happening at all. I don't think I understood who the main characters were until about 3/4 of the way through the movie. And even then I didn't get it because it was incomprehensible. Honestly, this is the movie version of Cthulhu. That's the only plausible explanation. It felt too dreamlike and too unreal. Too many things made literally no sense. Too many scenes moved too quickly to actually figure out what was happening. Lines would begin and end before I could make sense of what was actually being said. The camera work is some of the worst I've ever seen, pushing aside the lowest of the low budget films. It was like the filter and effects over the actual film had a mind of their own and started putting sparkles and flares all over the movie... over every picture... over... over everything... EVERY THING. Do you understand? Can you even comprehend it?

I can't even believe what I just watched was even an actual movie. I'm baffled and amazed. My mind is absolutely and literally blown. That was such an awful movie, but... but maybe I can make it make sense. Maybe I can see it as something beautiful and perfect... porcelain even...


So, I guess the movie is about a dude, Numai, who kills women and turns them into large marrionette dolls. Numai has a fixation on a woman who really has a thing for dolls that are called marronnier (which I think refer to marrionettes, but I could be mistaken). He stalks this woman, Marino, much to her own dismay. Anyway, a man named Iwata, Numai's teacher or master or something... it's impossible to really tell, but I think Numai is an apprentice or a friend of his or something... Anyway, Iwata kills his wife who he has never so much as touched, gives her a burial in a pond or mud or something... and somehow that burial in that specific place turns her body to wax, which he then carves into a sentient (slave?) doll who is alive for reasons.

Numai then brings Iwata more girls to turn into dolls, but Iwata rebels and is subsequently killed by Numai. There's a lot more, like a man who looks like he's gong to rape Marino at one point, but it murdered is a fairly gruesome fashion by Numai, I believe, only to be found by his stalker ex-lover, who cradles the would-be rapist and takes him home with her. What? I don't even know. The world of Marronnier is a strange and often baffling place. I would certainly be terrified to live there.

Anyway, it seems that Numai mostly wants to have Marino as either his lover or a doll or both, although that's never made entirely clear. He seems to at first just be stalking her and wanting to give her presents and shower her with affection and such... and then he suddenly wants to make her a doll by any means necessary. His motivations are all over the place and make no sense whatsoever, but his character is a self-contradiction anyway. The dude won't die and randomly teleports more times than I can count just to be slightly more intimidating. Or maybe that's his magical power in this.. can I even call this place a world? Or should I just call it like I see it and say that it's some kind of broken realm of humanity that has the most disturbing people populating it.

See, the problem here though is that Numai is not intimidating in the slightest; he's simply creepy. I mean, seriously, the dude is the creepiest man I have ever seen in my entirely life. LOOK AT THAT MAN'S FACE UP THERE AND TELL ME HE ISN'T! Just looking at his smile kind of makes my skin crawl ever so slightly.  Anyway, the entire time that Marino is stalked, she is looked after by her best friend, Mitsuba... who may also be in love with her? I don't even know. Japan is a weird and terrifying place for love. There's at least one longing look from Mitsuba to Marino. That's all I know. Hell, maybe they're even lovers. I don't even know. In my headcanon they are totally lovers and Mitsuba is awesome. Then again I have no way to prove or disprove my assertion there. I just want to write raunchy fanfictions about this terrible movie that nobody even knows about. For kicks and giggles.

The main point of the movie seems to be the sentient dolls. They're supposed to be the talking point about the film and the scary part, I think. And I'll tell you, at 1AM, they are pretty creepy. I'm currently in a room that probably has... oh... let's say ten dolls or so in it, all of various sizes and looks about them. I have never been the biggest fan of dolls, sometimes I can feel their cold, dead eyes staring at me. It's creepy is the point I'm making here, and I'm kind of creeping myself out here too... whoops... I thought that many of the bits with the dolls in the movie were actually creepy and kind of effective as a horror type of thing. I certainly didn't hate them. I felt that they were some of the strongest bits of the movie. They could even be the reason I find the movie watchable.

The confusion of the movie run through the roof though. I mean, most of the time I had no idea what was going on or who was on camera or what the plot was. The beginning introduced and subsequently killed off characters so quickly that I had no idea who I was even supposed to be identifying with. And the ending was a jumble of thoughts and images put into a camera. It was more a dream sequence than a story by that point. Now, I don't mind a dream sequence, but the whole movie felt like an extended fevered dream and a doll fetish dream to boot.

The gore effects were pretty good all around despite everything else. They were obviously fake, but that made it easier to watch for me. I hate tons of realistic gore in movies. Lots of gore makes me feel uncomfortable. Instead it looks like they had a fun time with fake body parts and buckets of blood. And I enjoyed the ride of blood myself. You could call me a fan of riding the blood train.

I think I've lost my mind.

Hideyuki Kobayashi directed this film and he sure made one ugly and strangely beautiful film. It's certainly not good, like I said, but it has a feel to it that I kind of like despite the terrible quality and nonsense that could be only called a plot by those who are deranged mental patients. Junji Ito is usually good at writing, and maybe the plot itself would have been fine, if a bit simplistic, but there were so many sequences of unreality and confusing times (and what was even going on?) that Junji Ito's best quality of writing really suffered. The plot came off as hacked together. The dialogue was so simple as to be inane, and the characters, besides Numai and Mitsuba, came off as clunky one-dimensional pieces of fluff, not fit for any movie. Numai was there as the creepy dude and he did what he was paid to do, and Mitsuba, strangely, did a great job as the hero part, hacking limbs off and genuinely looking like she was having a good time throughout the movie. I enjoyed her performance the most.

Junji Ito's cameo though was the absolute best part of the entire movie, and probably the best acting performance of the entire movie as well... sadly. I wish the movie could have just been him driving Marino around. It would have been a better movie all around... and everybody would have been happy.

The movie should have been simplistic. It's House of Wax but Japanese. Simple. There. But it turns out to be an overlong and incredibly complex, almost psychological and symbolic, look at a confusing and baffling premise. I'd like to think that the film has more to it than what it showed, but I don't think I'd believe it myself. It could be an allegory on stalking, and sometimes that would make sense... but other times it just comes off as a not great movie without any deeper meanings. I like the allegory of stalking idea, it would make some scenes actually make sense rather than being some of the worst scenes I have ever seen in movies.

The expressions in this movie are priceless. I have to point that out. Boy oh boy do the characters make some absolutely perfect expression. There is also a banging soundtrack, it's another fun part of the film. This movie though, despite my saying I enjoyed it kind of is really best to be watched with others and to make fun of it. Numai is creepy and believable as a villain and the movie is so weird that it actually starts becoming quite creepy itself, but it never reached that pinnacle of actually being scary. It's easier to make fun of than it ever could be to be scared of.  Case in point: Marino catches a goddamn high heel in her mouth. WHAAAAAAT? Then there's Mitsuba and her buster battle axe which she uses to cut off limbs. Piles and piles of limbs. Somehow Marino gets a sledgehammer out of nowhere. I assume she took it out of her nonexistent pockets. Then there's Numai at the end of the film, suddenly teleporting bandages to wrap around his disfigured face out of nowhere. I mean, unless he was expecting a terrible injury and came prepared with a bunch of bandages. I would have loved to have heard his thoughts there. "Oh dude, I should bring some bandages just in case these two women somehow injure me. I mean, they won't kill me obviously, but there's always that chance that I might get some scrapes and stuff and I really would rather not get those suckers infected. That would just hella suck." Also how the hell did Numai get Marino again after being in a bear trap? Did she help him? Did he somehow get out himself after being in a bear trap? Why wasn't that scene shown? Why did he teleport out of the bear trap? Why wasn't he limping after being in a bear trap? Why wouldn't he die? Why were the dolls alive? Why was Iwata so weird? Hell, why was half the cast so weird? Why didn't Marino do anything effective?  Why didn't she just stab him to death? Why was she thinking that stuff at the end? Why would she keep a doll of her doll brother and his doll girlfriend/wife with her in the same apartment? Did she actually get away or did Numai win? What the hell was with the whole scene where she's in white and he's under some covers? What about that whole bath scene earlier in the movie? What was going on there?

A lot of those questions seriously have led me to believe that the whole film is an allegory on stalking and what it does to one's psyche. Marino is plagued by terrible thoughts and bad dreams because of Numai, her stalker. He wants her to be a puppet on strings for him, but she refuses even if she isn't the stronger girl around. She fights him with the help of her friends, who eventually leave her to play their own parts. Her brother leaves her to be with his beloved. And her loyal friend Mitsuba stays with her until the bitter end, until eventually she too becomes victim to the terrible pain of dealing with a stalker. Marino is all alone at the end. Maybe she actually kills her stalker or maybe it's simply that she finally makes him go away, finally tells him off for good. She feels that she is free finally, but even as we see her "normal" life we see that she sees others as dolls and... yes, she herself is a doll too, her strings being pulled by her own stalker. She is controlled by him every bit as much as she feels that she controls her own actions. He dictates how she reacts, what she does, and  how embittered she is. Dead or not he still is in her mind, still controlling her, still causing her to fear even despite not being there.

And right there, if that's actually what the movie is about, I'd like it quite a bit more. I think I've put more thought into it though than the filmmakers ever did, but maybe I'd be surprised.

Anywho, I cannot in any way recommend this movie. It's not easy to find. It's not easy to watch. It's not really a fun experience. If you are a die-hard fan of Junji Ito's writing or really crappy movies about puppets, I guess I can't tell you to stay away from this movie, but do realize that it's not good even if I personally did kind of get a kick out of it. Watch other movies. So many other movies are better. It's a travesty that you aren't watching them. It's a travesty that I'm not watching them. Instead I'm a puppet on a string, subjecting myself to terrible movies so often that... that I must be losing my very mind. Heh heh...

(Also, as some housekeeping, this movie is incredibly hard to find information for. Some of the other reviews I looked at had multiple different names for the director of the movie, either with the name being Akira Kobayashi or Hideyuki Kobayashi, which I've gone with. Also, this is a very low budget film, so I don't want to be really mean about the whole thing. I did kind of enjoy it, but you can really tell the extreme low budget of the movie. Hell, I made a student film a few years ago on a lower budget than this and it looked better. The visuals here are legitimately painful to watch. The pacing is terrible, with the movie moving too quickly through many scenes and an eighty minute or so running time feeling like so much longer. The editing is painful... hell, most of the movie is simply painful. I may like some parts of it, I may like the idea of it... I may even think that the movie isn't the worst movie I've ever seen... but that's me being generous. It's a terrible, painful movie that nobody should be subjected to at all. Many of the reviewers I've read have an intense dislike of the movie. It's certainly a bad movie, but I can't say that I hate it. I just simply can't muster up the emotion to hate it. Another note is that I can't find exactly when the movie came out. I've seen most dates be 2004, but Wikipedia (a reliable source if there ever was one OBVIOUSLY) lists the movie as coming out in 2002. And at least one reviewer lists the release date as 2005. So, I'm playing it safe and going with the majority. I've found so little on the movie that I think it's best to play it safe.

Anyway, that's my housekeeping notes. Avoid this movie at all costs. If you have watched it, I'm so sorry that you probably had no fun at all watching it. At least I kind of thought it was amusing and okay... but I can find a lot to like in a movie that's hated. Most people can't. And I don't blame them at all for that.)

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