Friday, November 19, 2010

My Soul is Slashed – review

Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko

First released: 1991

Contains spoilers

Why some films end up vanishing into the mists of time sometimes confounds me. Whilst perhaps not the masterpiece I have heard it made out to be, My Soul is Slashed (and you have to love the title) is a solid, competent Japanese vampire film that has a touch (but only a touch) of the romantic comedy to it. It explores some interesting themes that raises it above that particular pigeon hole and also does some interesting (and in places mystifying) things with lore.

Yet, despite all this, getting hold of the film is a feat in itself and, as you will be able to tell from the screenshots, the VHS print is not exactly the finest in the world. The film itself begins with dioramas, featuring a vampire model, and can I just say, I want these dioramas very much! The TV news mentions the fall of Ceausescu, and there is a claim he experimented with Dracula’s blood. The film then cuts to a woman, Yuzuko (Narumi Yasuda), meeting an elderly man as he disembarks from a boat. He is her butler Oono (Eisei Amamoto) and has returned with a sample of Dracula’s blood.

Kimi (Hideko Yoshida) goes to wake her daughter, Saeko (Hikari Ishida), but she is not in bed – she has spent the night out. She is dropped off by one of her friends and tries to sneak in but her father, Ishikawa (Ken Ogata), spots her when she falls of her makeshift rope ladder. He is a business man and the news is full of a bogus medicine that his company has been selling. He denies that there is any truth in the rumours but he is so obsessed with his work he has forgotten it is Saeko’s seventeenth birthday.

Yuzuko races
He drives himself and a colleague to work. On route he ends up racing with Yuzuko as she heads to the hospital she works at – though there is no reason for this plot wise, it just underlines how driven to succeed the two are. Ishikawa is so driven he runs the stairs to his office on a daily basis rather than take the elevator. He is trying to get to the bottom of the rumour of bad medicine and goes to meet a reporter. A car follows him. When he gets out of his car he is run down.

transfusion with bad blood
Yuzuko is a haematologist and has been studying Dracula’s blood under the microscope. She puts it into a tray in the walk in refrigerator with a sign on that says “not for use”. When she leaves the blood bag starts moving and pulsating until the tray collapses and falls into a tray with normal blood. Why did it do this? Intelligent blood perhaps, or maybe its nature sensed instinctively the other blood bags below? The film doesn’t say. However Ishikawa needs a transfusion during his emergency operation and guess which blood he gets…

blood on the ashes
He dies. Yuzuko goes to his funeral and takes Saeko to one side. She asks the girl if she is still a virgin and says that, if she still is, dropping her blood on her father’s ashes will bring him back to life. There is a scene and Yuzuko is dragged out of the funeral. Later, however, at her father’s shrine, Saeko remembers the words and does bleed into the ashes – though her mom finds her and tries to stop her. Nothing happens.

Ishikawa is blamed for the company wrong-doings (though he was genuinely innocent) and a year passes. Yuzuko is doing some calculations and realises that the night would be the night (I don’t honestly know why it took a year and this is one of he mystifying bits of lore, along with the miraculously motivated blood pack). The pot of ashes cracks open, a slab in the cemetery moves and a bat emerges. The bat flies to Ishikawa’s old home and he appears before his daughter. He is naked and wet (it is raining) but assumes he must have got out of the bath and it is clear he believes it to still be the day he died (and cannot remember dying, indeed it is later said that vampires cannot remember their own death). Saeko is freaked.

The next day, having not seen Kimi as she is not at home, he gets himself off to work. The sun hurts his eyes and by the time he gets to the office he is feeling unwell. He takes the day off but, of course, he has been seen by several people who know him to be dead – including those who arranged for his demise. Saeko goes to the cemetery and Yuzuko finds her. They go back to the house and Ishikawa returns – he has aged to an alarming degree (the effect of the sun on a vampire’s body) but a glass of blood soon makes him okay. Yuzuko is a Dracula expert and wants to study him, he just wants to be mortal again and those who killed him think they failed somehow and want to finish the job.

I mentioned that the film had some interesting themes. These include Kimi moving on with her life and the pathos of Ishikawa having to accept that his wife thinks him dead and may becoming romantically involved with another. It also explores the father/daughter relationship with Saeko realising how much she cares for her father and, of course, the film represents the grief process also. As well as this the film weaves in the romantic aspect, a comedic vein runs through the film and we have a murder/industrial espionage aspect. The fact that the film holds all these together is praiseworthy.

the cure
Lore is fairly western standard, for the most part, bar the notable exceptions where it becomes fairly idiosyncratic. Ishikawa has no reflection, he can fly, turn into a bat and a rat, is repelled by the cross and has telekinetic powers. Most interesting was the idea of a cure that seemed to be generally based around a full body transfusion, but the blood was passed through a cross and the vampire was surrounded by crosses and communion hosts.

no reflection
The actors all played their roles well. The directing was good but languid in places, I thought. The actual depiction of vampirism is what holds the marks down a little, there was an indefatigable lightness to it, as though it were a means to an end. The torturous nature of being undead, which was hinted at, never felt that torturous. Not that it was bad, but I was constantly reaching for something darker that just wasn’t there. That said this was, all in all, some solid filmmaking and deserves a wider audience.

6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Christine said...

I don´t know anything else but I like the melodramatic title!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

it is a good title