Woman Tranformation

Directed by Tôru Kamei

Thank goodness there is still a place in the world that makes films like this – strange little curiosities for which there is no grand marketing plan whatsoever – just a desire to be weird and original. While Asian cinema has generally gone very mainstream, Japanese films can still surprise and delight you with their off the wall content. I have been watching Asian films for around 10 years now and I can’t help but think that globalization has affected them in terms of smoothing down the edges and partially removing their distinct cultural flavor. When was the last time Hong Kong came out with a truly crazy film that made little sense but was entertaining as hell? There used to be loads of them that Hong Kong audiences ate up with relish, but now their films more and more fall into strict genre based categories that can be remade in Hollywood or sold to foreign distributors. Korea makes films with wonderful production values and smart well thought out scripts, but they rarely surprise you any more other than a few mavericks like Kim Ki-duk and Park Chan-wook. But a very profitable straight to video market in Japan allows directors to experiment with small personal films or ones that are just so peculiar that it makes you shake your head with a big fat grin on your face. This would be one of the latter. When you are finished watching it you sort of go huh? What exactly was the point of this film – it’s not a horror film or drama or comedy – it is just fun and a little bit freaky.

This feels like a cousin to another low budget film I just saw – Unholy Women, which contains three tales on the dark side of women (as if they had one!), while Woman Transformation has the stories of three women – slightly connected – who are going through drastic and unexplainable physical transformations. The Japanese title of Yokai Kidan is more to the point if you have seen the Great Yokai War – as these women mutate into monsters – Yokai - but for no discernable reason – it just happens and can’t be stopped and their lives fall apart. That sounds kind of depressing perhaps, but in fact much of the film is filled with sharp black humor because the situations are just so silly, surreal and absurd. One young woman discovers that her neck is beginning to hurt and when she goes to the doctor he tells her after x-rays that her spine is like a snake’s. And soon she is able to stretch her neck to extreme lengths – which her hospital roommate can’t help but notice – but she has her own problems as her face is getting like moldy bread. Finally another woman who is a bit of an airhead who dresses in a cowboy hat and hands out leaflets discovers that her fingernails are growing at incredible rates – and are very very sharp. In here I suppose are some observations about women in today’s society where they are often judged so superficially on appearance – but though I found this rather purposeless, it was wonderfully peculiar – a real treat that only Japan is serving these days.

My rating for this film: 7.0

A trailer for the film can be found here.