07/11/2012

NYAFF 2012: “Red Vacance, Black Wedding” & “Dead Bite”

by Matthew Hawkins

What’s next? A pretentious, artsy-fartsy softcore porn from Korea and a zombie flick starring a hip hop act from Thailand?

Red Vacance, Black Wedding

Generally speaking, the taste and sensibilities of those who organize the New York Asian Film Festival are without question. But every once in a while comes something that makes one go “Seriously?” Red Vacance, Black Wedding was it for me this year. Here’s the set-up: two filmmakers, a mentor and student, each decide to make a short story that would explore the same basic theme, to see how each would approach and handle the topic of sex addiction. This is all presented in semi-documentarian/art house fashion, but I like that kind of stuff, so I was fairly interested in seeing the results (despite not know who these two men were, nor why I should care in the first place). Too bad the end results are extremely mediocre, pretentious, and flat out annoying.

The first tale, Red Vacance, is about a married man who has a younger mistress, and who decides to go on vacation with her, but the ball and chain catches wind of this, and she’s naturally pissed. At first she douses him in gasoline and is about to set him ablaze, but then she figures out a better idea: force feed him a ton of viagra and sexually abuse the guy. The wife also traps the not so innocent young girl, who gets beaten up as well. Eventually, all three ends up in the woods, in the mountains, where the two women engage in fisticuffs, and the husband gets his penis chomped off by an errand bear trap. Some other stuff happens, but I can barely remember any of it; Red Vacance was equal parts boring and obnoxious, making it difficult to pay attention and care. I don’t’ know what was worse: the grating soundtrack or how the director (Kim Tae-Sik) was clearly obsessed with finding the absolute coolest camera angle for each shot. Was so obvious, distracting, and dumb. It’s like a really bad student filmmaker (Tae-Sik, btw, is the student in the directorial face-off) who finally managed to get a job, of directing an episode of one of those really lame sex comedies that they show on Skinemax.

The second story, Black Wedding is slightly better, but only for one reason. Instead of being a comedy, it’s a drama about a woman who asks here lover, who is an even older guy than before, to be the officiant for her wedding. Which naturally is a really messed up thing to ask, but he also plays along, since he believes that it will mark the official end of their tryst, because he really wants his former student out of his system. Doesn’t work that way, and they’re still sexually obsessed with each other, despite the girl being a taken woman officially. A couple of things: this too felt like an episode of Red Shoe Diaries, and it’s never made clear why the relationship between the teacher and pupil is forbidden in the first place. It’s not like she’s in high school, but a (I believe former) college student, so it wouldn’t be that scandalous. But it pales in comparison to the aggravation that was her ringtone; throughout the entire episode, her phone constantly rings and go unanswered, with the melancholy/bittersweet melody representing a wellspring of emotions, or I believe that was the intent. But it was intolerable after a while, mostly due to the mixing in of the phone’s vibrations. I honestly would have walked out if not for the Black Wedding‘s sole saving grace: the girl had an unbelievably body and the sex scenes were admittedly pretty hot. Sorry, but I have to call it as I seem them.

Though another major gripe is how everything is built up to a particular moment… when the husband discovers that his brand new wife is already cheating on him. Which is the most anti-climactic, and flat out retarded thing ever. But yeah, Red Vacance, Black Wedding was just not for me, and is easily this year’s biggest dud. Pass.

Dead Bite

Imagine the film Hard Day’s Night, except replace the legendary rock band from Liverpool with a hip hop act that no one outside of Thailand has ever heard of. Also, place them on island that’s inhabited by both zombies and bloodthirsty savages who take orders from a girl that has feasted on mermaid flesh. That’s Dead Bite in a nutshell. It’s written by, directed by, and stars Joey Boy, a Thai rapper that has opened for the Black Eyed Peas at one point, and also features his crew, the Gancore Club. Their adventure begins with a concert for a bunch of ghosts, which according to the NYFF’s description of the movie, is actually some kind of tradition in those parts. Well after that goes sour, they’re approached by their shifty manager to do film a music video with a bunch of bikini babes on a boat. And everything goes super splendidly, until the vessel mysteriously runs out of fuel.

The person that’s at the very bottom of chain of command suggest that they stop off at that pretty looking island nearby, which the captain protests, since he’s heard strange things about Mermaid Island, but Gancore Club figure that sandy beaches would do their video shoot (and attempts at getting laid) well, so off they go. And almost immediately, the aforementioned savages and zombies come out of the woods and water, to murder all the women. As well as one member of the Gancore Club, who goes by Golf Fucking Hero, I kid you not. This is where the similarities between Dead Bite and Hard Day’s Night officially goes away; it would be like if Ringo became a zombie. Oh, and another member looses his leg, plus a second is hit with poisonous darts in the arms, rendering them completely useless, resulting in a bizarre, handicapped duo that somewhat works well together. The surviving members hole themselves up near the top of the mountain, where the crazed locals are afraid of, where they basically spend the following days contemplating what a hopeless situation they’re in. But a glimmer of hope arrives when they spot a boat that has just arrived.

Who are these new visitors? Why, it’s a tour guide leading around a Japanese woman, who is on an expedition. The goal is a mermaid, which Japanese people apparently dine on; that’s how they stay so young and fit, didn’t you know? That’s also how the other woman, who controls the savages, is able to exert her power apparently. In-between the Gancore Club trying to reach the boat is a subplot involving that previously noted bottom rung boat person, who clearly led everyone to their doom on purpose, and how he was only doing so because the evil queen of the jungle is holding his kid hostage. Oh, and two of the Gancore guys eat a hallucinogenic mushroom, causing them to jump around and pretend to be the Super Mario Bros (with sound effects from the NES game spliced in). Eventually Joey Boy and what remains of his posse stumble across a cache of Japanese weapons from WW2, plus a mummified mermaid body, the queen’s holy grail, which prompts a last ditch confrontation with the zombies at the beach that’s part starring contest (if you look them in the eye, they won’t attack) and part good old fashion zombie kill-a-thon. All to the sounds of Thai hip hop. Dead Bite is a strange movie, by a musician who loves zombie flicks, and decided to go out and make one himself.

And was maybe high the entire time, which is definitely part of the charm. Along with the head scratching dialogue, which was either written that way originally or is just the result of a poor translation job. Like when Joey Boy, when trying to appeal to the hottest of bikini babes early on, who believes that all men are bastards, and responds with “There are good bastards and bastard goodies.” Huh? Anyhow, if Dead Bite was to ever magically come across your way, I say give it a shot.

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