Friday, January 14, 2011

REVIEW: The Last Supper

最後の晩餐 (Saigo no bansan)

Released: 2005

Osamu Fukutani

Masaya Kato
Hitomi Miwa
Ayaka Maeda
Fumina Hara
Katsuya Kobayashi

Running time: 92 min.

Reviewed by Marc Saint-Cyr

In the opening scene, a man brings a woman back to his apartment, which is illuminated in sickly green light. He carefully caresses her, then whispers an unusual confession: “I want to eat you.” She encourages him, though it becomes clear that they perhaps don’t quite have the same things in mind. Surely enough, she doesn’t look quite so enthusiastic when he reveals a large machete which he shortly thereafter uses to decapitate her, finishing the scene with a sudden fountain of blood.

Thus, the direction and subject matter of "The Last Supper," directed by Osamu Fukutani and based on the novel "The Shonan Flesh-Eating Doctor" by Kei Oishi, are established early on in an admirably straightforward manner. The film is about the dark deeds of a serial killer, yet no cat-and-mouse game of pursuit with the police ever fully ensues. With his identity revealed right away to the audience, the story primarily concerns itself with providing a first-person character study of the murderer. He is Dr. Yuji Kotorida (Masaya Kato), a renowned cosmetic surgeon whose services are sought after by celebrities. Handsome and confident, he has little difficulty in seducing attractive women and getting them to let their guards down. Yet his chief desire isn’t to merely kill them, but instead something far more sickening: to cook and eat their flesh. As he juggles potentially deadly relationships with a colleague from work and a television interviewer whom he operated on and on whose show he was recently featured, the history of his cannibalistic urges is explored in lengthy flashback sequences.

"The Last Supper" spends most of its duration digging into (no pun intended) the depths of Dr. Kotorida’s grotesque culinary obsession – often in icky detail. In the flashback sequences, we learn that he made his first steps towards eating human matter as a gawky, bespectacled youth by stealing, cooking and eating fat from the liposuction clinic where he worked – a meal he appreciated more for the experience than the not-so-appealing taste. When he conveniently discovers a fresh suicide, he takes the body home and uses it to prepare several different dishes that he savors for ninety days. Normal meats (e.g. beef, pork, chicken) eventually do little more than make him sick, whereas he learns to relish eating young women – an act he perversely likens to sex. The most intriguing portions of his back-story entail a trip to Hong Kong where he discovers a shadowy underworld in which people are semi-ritualistically killed and prepared for diners for staggering prices – just the thing he is looking for to satisfy his craving.

"The Last Supper" is likely to throw off many unsuspecting viewers because of its close, sometimes stifling focus on Dr. Kotorida. After all, the majority of the film simply depicts him as he coolly goes about preparing his special meals. For the most part, there is only him and his morbid obsession to latch onto, making for an unusual if not alienating viewing experience. Further complicating matters is the fact that Dr. Kotorida is such a far cry from conventional movie serial killers. Neither creepy loner nor eccentric, Hannibal Lecter-esque gentleman, he is a suave, charismatic man who could easily have his pick of beautiful women in his social circles. The film does offer up some intriguing subplots that involve a young, unbalanced nurse who pines for the doctor; a repeated gag in which unsuspecting diners beg to know where his delicious mystery meat comes from; a strange detective who turns out to have more in common with him than one would initially think and a request for him to cater a wedding, which eventually results in the film’s suitably over-the-top climax.

Yet these elements, while offering doses of suspense, aren’t used as much or as well as they could have. Instead, they are scattered at odd points throughout the storyline and often seem rushed or underdeveloped. The serial killer odyssey that remains is a creepy, cheesy exercise filled with plenty of macabre moments enhanced by the ample usage of fake limbs soaked in red syrup and a fabulous selection of cringe-inducing sound effects. While "The Last Supper" provides nothing stellar or exemplary by any means, it works well enough as a trashy distraction.

Read more by Marc Saint-Cyr at his blog

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