Imprint (2006)
By: J.R. McNamara on November 17, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78.1, Anamorphic English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 63 minutes
The Movie
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Billy Drago, Youki Kudoh, Michie
Screenplay: Daisuke Tengan
Music: Kôji Endô
Country: USA
Notoriety follows director Takahashi Miike like a haunted shadow of a tortured ballerina whose sole purpose is to cut out his tongue and slice off his nipples. This, his 'banned' episode of Masters of Horror, sits well amongst his work. Like most of his movies, the story simmers, and is brought slowly to a boil, with imagery of exquisite pain and beautiful suffering that stays with you for a time after the film has finished.

Based on a novel Bokke Kyote, by Shimaku Iwai (who also had a small role in the film), the screenplay for this film was written by Daisuke Tengan, who has worked with Miike before when he adapted the novel Audition by Ryu Murakami into the wonderful film of the same name.

Imprint tells the haunting tale from the 1800s of American journalist, Christopher (Billy Drago), who travels to an island in Japan in search of the prostitute, Komomo (Michie) who he had abandoned years earlier, promising to return for her. Finding himself unable to locate Komomo, he takes residence in a bordello, where he hires the services of a deformed hooker (Youki Kudoh), but instead of taking her for carnal pleasures, he asks her to tell him a story, and so, she recounts to him the fate of his beloved Komomo, and so begins a story of rape, torture and degradation…

Beautifully shot, Imprint at times is like watching a traditional Japanese painting come to life. The flame haired whores with their blackened teeth take on the appearance of oni or evil spirits, who live on islands and take much delight in the torture of others. Miike's ability to take the obtusely sickening and turn it into an image of beauty is a gift that few directors have, but he has in spades. The only real problem I found with this episode of Masters of Horror was Billy Drago's performance, but I do not think that was his responsibility. Obviously, this film was to be part of an American television series, and the performances were to be executed in English, but as much trouble as some of the Japanese cast members had in performing in English; it seemed that the normally wonderful Drago was being misdirected, and appeared to be overacting. I imagine that this was due to miscommunication from the language barrier between Miike and Drago.
Impeccable image, with not a flaw in site. The colors were rich and vibrant when they had to be, and were muted went they had to be…under Miike's direction, a delight to watch.
The best way to describe the sound would be excruciatingly delicate. The tender pieces of traditional Japanese music mixed with the sounds of tearing flesh and splitting fingernails really makes the aural imagery an important part of the visuals, and makes it, at times, quite painful to watch.
Extra Features
There are a few featurettes on this disc:

Imprinting (47 minutes 34 seconds) is basically a 'making of' but an extraordinarily good one. This doco features interviews with many of the cast and crew including Nadia Vanessa, the dialogue coach who taught most of the actors how to play their parts phonetically, and is incredibly thorough and interesting.

I am the Director of Love and freedom: Takahashi Miike (41 minutes 23 seconds) is a comprehensive interview with Miike, not just about this film, but about j-horror and its continuing influence in western cinema.

Imperfect Beauty (22 minutes 01 second) is one of the better spfx documentaries I have seen in a while.

The commentary is by Chris D from American Cinematheque and Wyatt Doyle of While these two really had naught to do with this film, the talk-through is informative, and their discussion about the total influence of western to Asian and Asian to western cinema is enlightening and provides some independent insights into the production and decisions made about this film.

There is a stills gallery that features 58 photos taken from the production of Imprint.

There is a brief but fairly comprehensive biography of director Takashi Miike.

Here is a DVD rom element to this disc as well, which consists of the screenplay in .pdf form, and an Imprint screensaver.

Also feature trailers for the others in the Anchor Bay Masters of Horror series, Room 6, Demon Hunter and The Tooth Fairy.
The Verdict
Audition sits as one of my favorite movies of all time, and everything Miike did right with that film, he has done again here with Imprint. Both brutal and beautiful, Imprint is an experience not to be missed. The extras on this DVD make it a pretty easy sell as well.
Movie Score
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