Over the last year or so I have been having conversations, intermittently, with my friend Romaine about the depiction of the human body in certain films. We keep finding ourselves in a discussion about films that depict or use the body in a way that is not quite, um, normal. This covers a wide range of instances – some films exploit performers who have physical deformities while others may be centred around acts of virtuosity (such as martial arts films). The range of physical states / issues covered can include sex, physical disability, violence, and acts of virtuosity in a range of situations that may be bizarre, dangerous, heartrending, funny, disgusting, healthy…
We are going to start watching some of these films and try to unpack what fascinates us so and what they can tell us about. We are starting to compile a list of films to look at.
Some of the films that I think are worth a look at include:
- Swordsman 2 – a Hong Kong wuxia (swordplay) film starring Jet Li and Brigitte Lin. This movie features a eunuch who morphs into a transsexual, self mutilation and self amputation, mutilation as the result of torture, the life force being drained out of people’s bodies, and ladies with snakes up their sleeves.
- Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril – a Japanese samurai film from the 70s which features a female assassin who fights topless in order to distract her opponents with the demons tattooed on her breasts.
- Zatoichi (a character featured in a series of films from the 1970s and beyond) and Ichi (recent) – Japanese samurai films about a blind swordsman and woman respectively.
- Love and Honour – another recent Japanese samurai film about a bind swordsman.
- The One Armed Swordsman – Hong Kong kung fu film. The title is self explanatory. In fact there are any number of chopsockies with eunuchs, cripples, people with deformities, freaks galore. There are also lots of Japanese and Hong Kong films where weird, disgusting, titillating, grotesque things are being done to and with women’s bodies (and some men). Notable among these is The Bride with White Hair, which features some freaky arsed Siamese twins in one of the weirdest sex scenes I have ever seen. Human Lanterns is a kung fu horror movie with quite a good plot. As a Jet Li fan I will also mention Black Mask, which features characters who have had their nerves removed so that they can’t feel pain.
- Another 1970s Japanese samurai film hero was Hanzo the Razor. These films are pretty hard core in terms of weird and nasty misogynistic sex.
- And while we are on the subject of Japanese films I must mention the Pinky Violence genre, which features a mixture of eroticism and violence and female protagonists. Apparently pinky violence films such as Sex and Fury and Female Yakuza are among the films that influenced Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
Romaine has suggested the following:
The Descent –
This is a horror movie about a group of ladies who go potholing and discover Ghastly Things. I have seen little bits of it on YouTube and am about to watch the whole DVD and I strongly suspect it will scare the pants off me. Romaine LOVES horror movies and is fascinated by the recurring themes found in the genre and by the way horror filmmakers skillfully use certain triggers and devices to maneuver their audience’s mindset into a scary place. She recommends The Descent as an exemplary film, but also has mentioned horror films made in Spain and Italy in the 60s and 70s which I think could be interesting to watch.
Romaine has also unearthed films featuring:
- Chesty Morgan, who had a bizarrely huge bust. Apparently she uses it as a lethal weapon in her 2 films – she smothers men to death with her boobs. I am not making this up.
- Weng Weng, who was a martial arts savvy Filipino midget who made James Bond style actioners in the 70s. He was the hero and romantic lead.
- ‘Female Ninjas: The Magic Chronicles’ features the vaginal bubbles from hell. I kid you not. Look at this:
Where does she find these things?
Has anyone seen any of these movies? Can anyone suggest any other movies that feature the human body, or the use of the human body, in ways that are shocking, tantalizing, moving or thought provoking? Please leave a comment with your suggestions.