To follow up the underwhelming Three comes a sequel, Three… Extremes which not only brings together some more recognizable names to the table but also what has come along is a more consistently effective trio of short films that ultimately left a much more heightened impact compared to what originally had come by. If Three… Extremes got American distribution first because of these shorts were much better overall, perhaps I can see why that would have been the case. Given a distaste I have for anthology films especially when collaborative efforts are never usually consistent, Three… Extremes was nice to watch in the sense that everything seems to have flowed together perfectly – bringing me back to Kwaidan.
In Three… Extremes, we are presented a collection of short films from China, South Korea, and Japan, each directed by Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, and Takashi Miike respectively. Each of the three shorts which last about 40 minutes and there’s a distinct approach given towards how each short is made that lets its own intentions shine brighter, but when connected altogether, it flows perfectly and the experience is heightened all the more. While all three of these shorts could have been something more (Dumplings from all of them received said treatment as it was soon made into a feature film), the vast improvement from its predecessor arises from how all of these shorts still feel like completed ideas nonetheless.
Our first short is Dumplings, by Fruit Chan, is perhaps the most morally resonant of the bunch. What helps it stand out is how it is probably the most ambiguous of the three and at the very least it manages to provide enough to create a lingering effect whether it be from how Fruit Chan gracefully directs the atmosphere around such a piece, giving the smallest of actions a much louder bang. Yet the moment it makes the loudest of all is when the final sound is heard. The lead actress in this short is wonderful, and as haunting as it is, it was never until Fruit Chan turned it into a feature film where the idea has realized its full potential. The moment in which it ends, it still satisfied but you know you want more.
Cut is the second short, and it is directed by Park Chan-wook. This is where whatever takes place begins to take a much weirder turn, but for the better when I talk about that. Visually, it is perhaps the most inventive of the bunch as the moment in which we see the piano set piece, it grabs straight on and never lets go. This is the highlight of where Cut‘s impact arises, as Park Chan-wook displays a great understanding of what can already be set up in order to provide candy for one’s eyes. Yet as one would expect from his delightfully twisted nature, there’s a morbid sense of dark humour that feels so out of place yet it flows so nicely along with where everything goes. Of all the segments, however, this was the one amongst all that fits best as a short and alas, it is my favourite of the bunch.
The last short, Box, comes from none other than Takashi Miike, and it is also my least favourite of the bunch. This one stands out, however, as the most conceptually inventive of the set because it just seems like a short idea that utilizes everything it possibly can, within such a contained amount of time and so much so to that point what we are all witnessing is a form of insanity so beautiful on many counts. Yet for how much Miike is reveling in the insane nature of his own style, it is never as engaging as the rest. There are many things to be admired, on the bright side, but it is also where Three… Extremes ends up breaking its sense of consistency because as a conclusion, it is not nearly as memorable because it feels so lost within its own idea.
After the disappointing Three, it was nice to see that Three… Extremes not only improved upon the lack of consistency from all the segments, but also upon the quality from the whole bunch. Everything about Three… Extremes is about as wonderfully demented as one would want from such a set, but it seems to drop a bit when Takashi Miike’s short comes along. And even as a rather big fan of Takashi Miike in general, it was disappointing to see that he never went full out despite his inventiveness, but to see a sense of beauty out of Park Chan-wook’s contribution, that was nothing other than glorious. As for Fruit Chan’s bit, I also recommend checking out the full-length version whenever possible, because something about it sticks inside of you in a way the others don’t.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fortissimo Films.
Directed by Fruit Chan
Screenplay by Lillian Lee
Starring Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Screenplay by Park Chan-wook
Starring Lee Byung-hun, Im Won-hee
Directed by Takashi Miike
Screenplay by Bun Saikou, Haruko Fukushima
Starring Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe
Produced by Ahn Soo-hyun, Peter Ho-sun Chan, Fumio Inoue, Naoki Sato, Shun Shimizu
Release Year: 2004
Running Time: 125 minutes