VideoVista have my review of Daihachi Yoshida’s Funuke : Show Some Love, You Losers!.
They also have my review of Compton Bennett’s The Seventh Veil.
Funuke is by no means a perfect film but it does shed quite an interesting cultural light on one of my favourite social dichotomies. A dichotomy I have also been discussing over at THE DRIFT.
It was particularly interesting to watch Funuke so soon after I saw Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kamikaze Girls as both films deal with a schism in Japanese Culture between the cool and the uncool and the urban and the rural. In Kamikaze Girls, the protagonist dresses in the Lolita fashion, much to the incomprehension of her neighbours. In Funuke, the oldest sister runs off to Tokyo to learn to be one of those actress/model/singer hybrids that the Japanese call idols.
What I find fascinating about both films is that neither of them displays even a hint of doubt when depicting the rural poor as a bunch of in-bred, moronic pig-fuckers whose complete lack of knowledge or understanding of popular culture rightly makes them outsiders and maginals fit only to be laughed at. These people are have-nots both in an economic sense and a cultural sense. They are ‘Provincial’.
The term ‘provincial is an interesting one. Its origins lie in the concept of Roman provinces which were areas of the Roman Empire governed by Magistrates on behalf of the central Government. This suggests a very top-down vision not only of political power but also of culture. The English word ‘provincial’ comes from the French and the French still use the word ‘province’ to designate parts of France that are outside of Paris. So to use the word ‘provincial’ is to accept the existence of a more central and superior culture to the one being described.
This attitude is one of the central concepts of the Horror genre. One literary critic once described the genre as being primarily about journeying from the City to the Countryside. Once you leave the City, you are in danger as you are surrounded by primitive locals whose greater proximity to the Earth not only makes them different to City-dwellers, it also makes them more prone to violence. For example, consider films such as Deliverance (1972), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Wolf Creek (2005) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Indeed, this belief also informs one of the major trends in recent French Horror with both Xavier Gens’ Frontier(s) (2007) and Kim Chapiron’s Sheitan (2006) featuring hip banlieusards being hunted by yokels. All of these feature City-dwellers venturing into places where they are unwelcome and hated.
Of course, there are alternatives to this view-point. For example, neither the Americans nor the British speak of ‘provinces’. While their City-dwellers may occasionally look down upon their rural cousins, they do accept the idea that they are equals as opposed to cultural vassals.
Some films take the ‘provincial’ view of Horror on board and react against it. For example, Koldo Serra’s The Backwoods (2007), Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and James Watkins’ Eden Lake (2008) have City-dwellers being murdered by rural types, but both also pose the question as to who the real monsters are; the locals or the arrogant interlopers who assume that the space is rightfully theirs? I touch upon these issues in my review of the film.
However, try as I might, I could not come up with a Horror film that demonises city-dwellers. Oh sure, the protagonists of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) wind up finding refuge in the country, as in John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951) but in both of these cases, it is a countryside that is safe precisely because it has been emptied of its inhabitants. This is rather a strange state of affairs given how alienating and stressful living in a city can be. Indeed, works touching upon the horrors of the city tend to be safely entrenched within the fantasy genre whether it is the grotesques of Bree in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the fleshpots and evil temples of John Milius’ Conan The Barbarian (1982) or the decaying honeypot of Goro Miyazaki’s Tales From Earthsea (2006) (or indeed any of the Studiio Ghibli films).