Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – New Religion

My notes on New Religion

One of the strangest, most refreshing edge-of-genre films in recent years.  After a rich, red vision of a devastated city and the coagulation of a bloody/waxy new lifeform, it opens with an extremely understated rerun of the inciting horror of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.  Miyabi (Kaho Seto) is so absorbed by Virginia Woolf’s To the Ligthouse she doesn’t notice her small daughter Aoi (Hanna Nakamoto) using unsafe steps to water the host of pot plants on their apartment balcony and falling to her death.  Some time later, Miyabi is working as a call girl, in an understated noncommittal way.  She takes over a regular client from Akari (Kuroe Mizuta), a hooker who has inexplicably become a mass murderess.  Oka (Satoshi Oka), a shut-in with a mechanical voicebox, hires Miyabi not for sex but so he can photograph segments of her body in a form of collage.  Miyabi has a slacker musician boyfriend (Saionji Ryuseigun) and a violent ex-husband (Yuki Nagata) but the only guy really looking out for her is the escort service driver Aizawa (Daiki Nunami).  With the ominous example of previous flamout Akari in mind, Aizawa is wary of the photographer’s requests – and warns Miyabi not to let him photograph her eyes – but it becomes clear that the process is designed to bring about a cosmic event, with the lure that the participant can also summon up the spirit of a departed loved one.

It’s oblique and understated, evocative of the Kiyoshi Kurosawa of Pulse, with quiet, affecting performances and a classical, cool look.  It’s a post-pandemic picture, noting the social. psychological and economic aftereffects of lockdown as isolated individuals struggle to reconnect with society – even the call girl outfit is dangerously close to going under and everyone has a backstory of disappointment or abandoned plans – just as a new plague unleashes a psychic tsunami.  Written and directed by Keishi Kondo.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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