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THREE

An Asian three-parter with segments directed by Korea’s Kim Jee-Woon (of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS), Thailand’s Nonzee Nimibutr (NANG NAK) and Hong Kong’s Peter Ho-Sun Chan (WARLORDS). The overall verdict? Incohesive and unsatisfying.

The Package
     THREE (SAAM GAANG), from 2002, is known as 3 EXTREMES II in the US, even though the first 3 EXTREMES (containing shorts by Fruit Chan, Chanwook Park and Takashi Miike) actually arrived in 2004, two years after this film. It’s better, in any event!

The Story
     In “Memories” a man, Sung-Min, suffers from disquieting hallucinations brought on by grief over his wife’s apparent desertion. At the same time a young woman awakens in the middle of a city street with amnesia. Beset with half-recalled memories of her marriage to Sung-Min, she makes her way back to their apartment--where Sung-Min is having horrific nightmares involving his ex, who he in fact killed years earlier...
     “The Wheel” features an aging puppeteer haunted by his puppets, which are apparently cursed. This would appear to be proven by the fact that an old man is killed in a suspicious fire one night. Following this the cursed dolls continue to make trouble for the residents of the puppeteer’s village, nearly drowning one man and killing a young woman outright. Several villagers elect to use magic to fight back against the puppeteer, who is going steadily mad.
     In “Going Home” a young boy living in a Hong Kong apartment block is haunted by a wheelchair-bound woman and her creepy husband, who live in the building across from his. One day the boy goes missing, and his father naturally suspects the creepy man and his wife; he investigates the activities of the offending couple and ends up tied up in their apartment. It seems the creepy man is using his formerly dead wife in a series of mystical experiments designed to make her alive and well. Thus far she’s alive, though not quite well. The man promises he’ll release his captive as soon as the woman regains her health, but then some decidedly unexpected developments occur…

The Direction
     “Memories”: This segment, from Korea, was directed by Kim Jee-Woon in extremely spare and atmospheric fashion. If anything the segment is too style-conscious and over-controlled for its own good, with a perilously thin storyline (the opposite of the multi-layered narrative of Kim’s TALE OF TWO SISTERS) propped up by Kim’s undeniably impressive visuals. There’s also a divertingly gory dreams-within-dreams climax involving dismembered fingers and (literal) brain picking. Unfortunately we’re force-fed many clichéd images of a pasty ghost women with long dark hair (an unwavering staple of modern Asian horror).
     “The Wheel”: This segment is steeped in cultural traditions that will be incomprehensible to non-Thai viewers, and is extremely difficult to follow. Director Nonzee Nimibutr packs the segment with hoary B-movie conventions (gratuitous dissolves and slow motion, etc), yet also contributes some interesting elements. A nocturnal dream sequence marked by prowling steadicam visuals is haunting and hypnotic in a way the rest of the segment should be--but isn’t.
     “Going Home”: Peter Chan is the most westernized of THREE’S directors, having helmed the 1999 Hollywood production LOVE LETTER, and provides the most straightforward and non-showy of the three segments. It still has its share of artful touches, and an atmosphere that turns unexpectedly deep and soulful--and, frankly, a little dull. The performances of the three lead actors are all quite fine, the narrative consistently unpredictable, and the crisp cinematography (by the great Christopher Doyle) impeccable. While not a masterpiece, “Going Home” is easily the best of the three segments, without the distracting self-consciousness of the first or the incoherence of the second.
 

Vital Statistics

THREE (SAAM GAANG; 3 EXTREMES II)
Applause Pictures/CJ Entertainment/Sahamongkol Film

Directors: Kim Jee-Woon (“Memories”), Nonzee Nimibutr (“The Wheel”), Peter Ho-Sun Chan (“Going Home”)
Producers: Jung-Wan Oh (“Memories”), Nonzee Nimibutr, Duangkamol Limcharoen (“The Wheel”), Jojo Hui (“Going Home”)
Screenplay: Kim Jee-Woon (“Memories”), Nitas Singhamat (“The Wheel”), Jojo Hui, Matt Chow (“Going Home”)
Cinematography: Kyung-Pyo Hong (“Memories”), Nattawut Kittikhun (“The Wheel”), Christopehr Doyle (“Going Home”)
Editing: Yun-cheol Jeong (“Memories”), Nonzee Nimibutr (“The Wheel”), Kong Chi-Leung (“Going Home”)
Cast: Kim Hye-su, Jeong Bo-seok, Suwinit Panjamawat, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Eugenia Yuan, Li Ting-Fung, Choi Jeong-won, Anusak Intasorn, Jee Sung-kuen, Moon Jung-hee, Park Hee-soon, Tinnapob Seeweesriruth, Vinn Vasinanon, Pongsanart Vinsirir, Heng Wong

     

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