2019 (June 28, 2022)
Deep Images (Kani Release/Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/program category: B
- Video Note: A-
- Audio quality: B+
- Additional Rank: D+
Writer/director Daisuke Miyazaki Videophobia is a fever dream examination of the intersection between technology and personal identity. It takes the body horror elements of David Cronenberg and filters them through the distorting visual lens of David Lynch. Miyazaki’s story, which he wrote with Naoto Akiyama, focuses this lens on Ai (Tomona Hirota), a young Korean-Japanese woman who lives in Osaka’s Koreatown. She works odd jobs, like wearing mascot costumes. Such tasks are comfortable for her, because it means that she is hidden behind a mask. After an evening spent in a nightclub, she returns home with a man and sleeps with him. Like everything else in her life, she doesn’t take sex too seriously, but then she has a moment with him where they seem to share a real bond, and they end up holding hands. Later, she discovers that a video of her encounter has been uploaded to the internet, and with her masks exposed, she begins to behave in increasingly paranoid and irrational ways.
Nothing in Videophobia is as clear as that description sounds, as everything is seen through the prism of Ai’s perceptions, and her own grip on reality becomes increasingly tenuous as the film progresses. Even his filmed encounter cannot be taken at face value, as Miyazaki clearly demonstrates in the way he portrays it. Ai thinks she finds the camera that was used to record her, but it turns out to be an old Super 8mm film camera instead. Later, more videos are uploaded showing the encounter from different angles, as if there is a cameraman in the room with them. Reality and paranoid fantasy fade for Ai, and so does the viewer. The camera itself becomes increasingly unstable as the film progresses, reflecting its inability to see things more clearly.
The fascinating thing about Videophobia is that Ai’s mental breakdown has nothing to do with the fact that her body was exposed on the internet. Sex for her is transactional and superficial, and she treats her body as another layer of the masks she keeps between herself and the outside world. The real issue for her is that people can see the moment of true intimacy afterwards, where all of her masks momentarily dropped. This brief encounter is enough for him to make the drastic decision to completely disassociate himself from reality and use all possible means to create a new mask that can never be removed. Videophobia is definitely a body horror movie, but one that works on a more metaphorical level than most of these stories. It’s not Ai’s body that’s the problem for her; it is rather what is there: his very soul. It’s the one thing she’s never wanted to reveal to anyone, and therein lies the real horror.
Videophobia was shot by cinematographer Yasutaka Watanabe, but there is no information available on how it was produced. It looks like it was captured digitally, with a layer of faux grain added in post-production. The black-and-white image, framed at 1.85:1, is crisp and clear, with good grayscale, as well as solid contrast and black levels. While it would have been captured in color, it appears to have been correctly categorized for black and white, rather than just being a desaturated color. The only apparent anomaly is inexplicable instability in a shot at 62:00. It could have been intentional, as another way to mirror Yu’s break from reality, but it’s the only shot that looks like it, so it may have been a flaw in the original recording as well. Either way, it’s the only noticeable problem in an otherwise gorgeous black-and-white presentation.
Audio is offered in Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional subtitles in English, Japanese and Chinese. (There are actually two different sets of Chinese subtitles, so presumably one is in Cantonese and the other is in Mandarin, but it’s not clear either in the menu or in the player selections. ) Most of the mix is effectively mono, with only a bit of stereo spread out for the music – everything else stays anchored to the center. There is deep bass in BAKU’s music, which is used effectively to create a more eerie atmosphere. It’s not a dazzling mix, but it’s appropriate for the material.
Blu-ray by Kani Releasing for Videophobia is packaged in a clear amaray case that displays a memorable image from the film on the back of the insert, which is visible when the case is opened. It also includes a 20-page booklet containing an interview with Miyazaki by Justine Smith which was originally published by Seventh Row. (No transfer notes, unfortunately, which I’d like Kani to include in his releases.) A sticker for I will be your mirror was hidden inside. There is also a glossy cover available direct from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 2,000 units. The following extras are included, all in HD:
- I will be your mirror (9:14)
- “Videophobia” music video (5:21)
- Trailer (1:05)
- Presentation of the director (1:33)
I will be your mirror is a new short film by Miyazaki, commissioned by Kani especially for this release. It features both Tomona Hirota and Sumire Ashina from Videophobia, and it continues that movie’s themes of identity in a startlingly different way – an experience better than explaining here. The “Videophobia” music video was directed by Miyazaki, mixing new footage with clips from the film. The Presentation of the director features Miyazaki giving a brief overview of the film, and he also describes what the directing process means to him.
Videophobia is another Kani Releasing winner. The extras are thin, but the fact that they’ve commissioned a new short is commendable, and everything here is true to their mission statement of expanding the canon of Asian cinema in North America, and also supporting Asian filmmakers. promising. Miyazaki is definitely an up-and-coming player, so it’s wonderful that Kani brought this movie to region-free Blu-ray for North American audiences.
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