"House" DVD Movie Review (2010)

11/11/2010 Posted by Admin


DVD Movie Review

Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, running time, 88 minutes, unrated.

By our guest blogger, Aidan Thomas

1960s and '70s Japanese modernist cinema has enjoyed a much-deserved resurgence as of late. Directors such as Ozu, Kurosawa, Suzuki and Oshima have all had major retrospectives within the last year and the Criterion Collection and Janus Films have played an integral part in ensuring that important Japanese cinema is available to audiences nationwide.

The most recent Japanese film de jour, "House (Hausu)," is also enjoying a newfound popularity.

Following a theatrical release, director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s "House" was recently released (with juicy extras) by Criterion. The DVD gives mainstream audiences the chance to see what may be one of the most unique pieces of cinema ever made.

The film tells the story of seven nubile Japanese schoolgirls’ summer visit to a relative’s house. The girls’ visit quickly takes a turn for the crazy as they discover that a spirit haunts the house. Obayashi tries to explain the spirit by showing that it has been cursed ever since the fiancĂ© of its inhabitant (one of the school girls’ aunt) died during WWII. Rhyme and reason take a back seat in this film as the girls one-by-one fall victim to the houses curse. Each death is more ridiculous than the last and leaves you wondering what and who Obayashi’s inspirations could possibly have been (a question thankfully answered in the special features).

Obayashi’s directorial choices are as perplexing as the story itself as his characters traverse various psychedelic painted landscapes on their way to the house. Tangential characters and stories are interspersed throughout and always provide a welcome respite from the craziness taking place in the house. These scenes, which are as perplexing as much of the film, are frequently downright funny and allow Obayashi to do whatever he wants.

That’s not to say the rest of the film is controlled. What’s great about this film is it’s complete lack of touch with cinematic expectations and rules. Obayashi does whatever he wants. The film is part slapstick, part psychedelic, part musical, part pseudo-porn--and that’s all within the first 15 minutes.

The special features are enlightening and interesting. In particular, the interview with Obayashi and his daughter provide details about the film’s conception that should be mandatory for all viewers. House is a roller coaster and we should all thank Obayashi for taking us along for the ride.

Grade: A

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