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“Imprint,” Takashi Miike’s snuff film “Rashomon”

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By R. Emmet Sweeney

IFC News

Of all the bloody stumps and bared bosoms of the “Masters of Horror” series on Showtime, those depicted in “Imprint” were a bit too bloody and bare even for indulgent cable execs (the discarded fetuses were rumored to have been the tipping point). Banned from airing during the series’ run in the U.S. (it aired on Bravo in the UK), Takashi Miike’s snuff film “Rashomon” finally hits our shores thanks to this week’s loaded DVD release. As with all of Miike’s voluminous output (he has three other ’06 films on his resume), it’s a mixed bag — with scenes of genuine terror, outrageous camp, and stomach-turning violence.

“Imprint” was adapted from the Japanese horror novel “Bokee Kyotee” by Shimako Iwai — a straightforward tale of past misdeeds haunting the present. American vagabond Christopher (Billy Drago) travels to a remote island/brothel to find the woman he loved and lost, Kimomo (Michie Ito). In her place he finds a nameless prostitute (Youki Kudoh) with a facial deformity who informs him how Kimomo died. She changes her story multiple times, with each alteration depicted in flashback. Soon both of their histories are excavated, and it’s a nasty, vicious, and viscous business.

The time period is strangely ahistorical, with Edo period architecture clashing with electric paper lamps. It feels like a whorehouse for the modern tourist, where one can get the kicks of old-time misogyny with the comforts of the industrial revolution. It is a bit of a dream world — an unreality the actors bring into their work. Drago (“The Untouchables”) has one of the great under-utilized faces in Hollywood. Cavernous, skeletal, and strikingly blank, his stare is its own slasher flick. Utilizing this strength, Drago’s performance is akin to pantomime, marking each emotion with wide loping gestures over his guttural drawl. It’s highly theatrical, and clashes with Kudoh’s more naturalistic approach (until her head is peeled back, of course).

Amazingly, Kudoh is the only actor in the film who could speak English (other than Drago). Everyone else learned their lines phonetically from a linguist. This lends a disembodied quality to their performance, and it’s either a brilliant reflection of their loss of humanity, or just an extremely cheap way to hire actors. Probably more of the latter, but selected moments pay off: especially with the repeated scenes of the Buddhist monk speaking to Kudoh’s character as a child in flashback. He unrolls a parchment depicting the tortures of hell, and says, “Pretty scary, huh”, stuttering over the “s” in scary. It’s funny but laced with menace — and during the second flashback the undertones in the scene become even more ambiguously evil.

Miike can’t abide ambiguity long, so there’s a torture set piece to put us cerebral folk in our place. It is epic cruelty, inflicted upon Kimomo by a jealous older prostitute (curiously, played by the book’s female author Iwai). It’s pulp exploitation that would fulfill any adolescent male’s fear and loathing of femininity (in an interview on the disc, he said only lonely rural kids in Japan watched his films before he became a cult star overseas), but one can’t deny that it’s bravura filmmaking — meticulous in its structure and its violence.

The DVD is packed with extras that are actually worth watching, including an hour-long interview with Miike (hilariously titled “I Am the Film Director of Love and Freedom”), where he talks about being pigeonholed as a horror director in the West, and his refusal to refuse any project offered to him. Also included is a making of doc, a feature on the makeup, and audio commentary by American Cinematheque programmer Chris D. and writer Wyatt Doyle.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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