Three short films by acclaimed Asian directors. “Dumplings” by Fruit Chan concerns an aging actress who finds a disturbing way to look more youthful. Park Chan-Wook’s “Cut” shows a director taken hostage in his own home; he’s given the option to either choke a child to death or watch as his wife’s fingers are being cut off. “Box” by Takashi Miike involves a writer whose horrible childhood comes back to haunt her.
Of the three…extremes, the one I feel I understand (and like) the least is “Box.” It’s creepy, surreal, and sad. You can read the theme as being that one can’t escape one’s past, but overall I didn’t get much out of it. “Cut” is a disturbing yet humorous tale, with the antagonist Stranger (no one in this segment has a name) funny and repulsive at the same time. The characters go comically insane, and there are surreal moments like Stranger recreating all of his scenes from Director’s movies (see below). His motive is very thought-provoking, once he reveals it.
“Dumplings” is the most disturbing of the three to me—or at least the grossest. Mrs. Li is eating dumplings made with human fetuses. Which is disgusting even in theory, but we’re also treated to shots of her dealer Aunt Mei (Ling Bai) chopping up said fetuses and audio of Mrs. Li slurping them down—yum yum. As Mei says, “So cute and so nutritious.” The ending is the penultimate gross-out—stick around if you can stomach it.
In all three films, characters seek to control the uncontrollable and take charge of their destinies—to no avail. Kyoko can’t escape her guilt, Stranger can’t change Director’s nature, and Mrs. Li looks about the same, only itchy and smelly to boot. Overall the film is creepy, well-acted, directed, and written.