by Chris MaGee
Washington DC's Freer Gallery of Art hosts a fair amount of Asian-themed film events. I remember a retrospective of films by Tadanobu Asano titled "Rebel, Artist, Superstar" that ran last year with Asano in attendance that made us Japanese film fans' mouths water. The big reason for the Freer's high Asian film content is author and programmer Tom Vick whose most recent book "Asian Cinema: A Field Guide" cover films from not only Korea and Japan, but from Thailand, India and Iran as well.
Right now The Freer and Vick have a special four film series running that they've dubbed "Asia Trash!" that highlights what they describe as "absurdist" films from Asia. Many of you out there would probably prefer the term "midnight films" or just plain "fun". What films to they have on tap? The series started last night with Ryuhei Kitamura's "Versus" (above) and will continue with Yoshihiro Nishimura's "Tokyo Gore Police", Wisit Sasanatieng's "Tears of the Black Tiger" and Bong Joon-ho's "The Host". These trash movie series are nothing new on the North American circuit at the moment, but what is unique about "Asia Trash!" is that it's being presented in tandem with The Freer's exhibit of antique illustrations and prints called "The Tale of Shuten Doji" which chronicles the depictions of the Japanese story of the conquest of the monster Shuten Dōji by the hero Minamoto Yorimitsu. As Vick describes it in this interview, these new violent and over the top films have a direct link to a story like Shuten Doji which features "has beheadings and samurai and monsters and ghouls. So you can see that these movies don’t just come out of a vacuum—they’re really rooted in folklore that goes back very far and people have always been entertained by these kinds of stories."
For more information on "Asia Trash!", which is currently running at The Freer until August 20th, click here.