Yesterday morning, Kim and I set out to stain the new fence in our back yard. We spent a comical 90 minutes attempting to use a pump sprayer to make the job easier, but we gave up after a frustrating series of problems. Instead, we resorted to good old-fashioned rollers.

We managed to stain about one-third of the fence before we both decided to call it a day. We went inside to watch movies instead. It was my turn to pick something.

“What do you want to watch?” Kim asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Something Asian. Or something disturbing. Preferably something Asian disturbing.”

Left to my own devices, I watch a lot of Asian films. (And yes, I know that’s a very broad umbrella.) I’m particularly partial to Japanese classics. Recently, I’ve discovered I enjoy disturbing movies too. I have no idea why, but I do. I realized this after watching Ari Aster’s very disturbing Midsommar during my prep for seeing Barbie in the theater.

Ultimately, Kim and I did not watch a disturbing movie together. We compromised on a film that was neither Asian nor disturbing: the surprisingly amusing Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. I won’t say it’s high art, but it was fun.

Later, though, I indulged my desire for “Asian disturbing” alone. I watched Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance from Park Chan-wook. That’s exactly what I was looking for!

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is beautifully filmed. It is also very Asian and very disturbing. This shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, since it’s from the same mind that gave us The Handmaiden. I want to see more from Park Chan-wook. (I have Oldboy on DVD coming this week, and I bought “Decision to Leave” in the iTunes store last night.)

Since I started logging my films in Letterboxd on 01 January 2021, I’ve seen 220 movies. I’ve tagged 13 of those as “disturbing”. By this I mean that, for whatever reason, I found them unsettling at the time I watched them. (This could be for a variety of reasons.)

Here are those films in chronological order of their theatrical release date:

[Thirteen disturbing films]

Like I said, I’m in the mood for movies like this right now (I have no idea why haha). I’m especially in the mood for the “Asian disturbing” subgenre. Those movies are just so inventive and twisted! In the coming weeks, I intend to watch (or re-watch):

  • Zhang Yimou (To Live, Raise the Red Lantern)
  • Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, my first exposure to “Asian disturbing” thirty years ago)
  • Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Decision to Leave)
  • Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
  • And others I’m sure I’ll find along the way.

I also want to have Kim watch Ari Aster’s Midsommar with me. Then, I want to watch his Hereditary, which I have not yet seen (but which I believe to be even more disturbing than Midsommar). Denis Villeneuve might be my favorite filmmaker at the moment, and he has some excellent disturbing films, including the alarming Incendies.

Villeneuve’s Polytechnique and Sicario are also on my list.

Anyhow, if you have recommendations for other good disturbing films, let me know. I’m not looking for stuff that’s gross-out for the sake of being gross-out. I’m more interested in movies that are genuinely psychologically disturbing. Incendies is probably the best example of this. It might be the most disturbing movie I’ve ever watched, but there aren’t any gross-out moments.

5 Replies to “Asian disturbing.”

  1. Jo says:

    Almodovar makes disturbing movies, some Spanish cinema is pretty disturbing

  2. Amanda says:

    Woman in the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara. My partner and I watched it at a time when we were working very long hours and sacrificing a lot of our lives to meet project deadlines. Maybe that’s why it hit so hard. In any case, it definitely fits into the “Asian disturbing” genre.

    On a lighter note, Tampopo – though very much a comedy – has some scenes that most American viewers would probably consider “disturbing” or “bizarre”.

    Have you read any books by Haruki Murakami? I enjoyed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle… In case you want to extend the genre to books as well.

    Good luck with the rest of the staining!

  3. Amy says:

    Ingrid Goes West
    Not horror movie disturbing, but a commentary on modern insta culture.

  4. Susan says:

    Raise the Red Lantern is both disturbing and visually stunning – I watched it here in Canada on the French cable TV channel so I had to make my way through the French subtitles which were somewhat challenging for me but it was worth it for the excellent cinematography.

    I also recommend Kung Fu Hustle which may not meet your disturbing criteria but I found the fantastical martial arts scenes captivating and innovative.

    And finally, my husband and I watched the series Tokyo Vice recently; it gives a window into the seedy underbelly of Japanese hostess clubs and the operations of rival gangs – it’s based on a true story of a young somewhat naive American who works his way into being accepted as a reporter for a Japanese newspaper and then goes out of his way to find and report on the two infamous gangs. We are eagerly awaiting another season of it if there is one. Disturbing, violent, eye-opening and addictive.

    Three different types of movies but each captivating in their own way – enjoy your Asian movie-fest!

  5. msmo says:

    Oldboy has been remastered and appended with a director’s interview for its 20th anniversary. It is playing in theatres across the U.S. and highly recommended.

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