Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Guinea Pig: Mermaid in a Manhole - 1988

This notoriously hard to view series, Guinea Pig, is comprised of six movies from what I can tell.  I don't know everything about the series, but it is based on artwork and manga of Hideshi Hino in some parts of the series, especially the one I just watched, Mermaid in a Manhole.  It is also supposedly awful, torture-porn type films made only for the sake of making weird awful torture-porn.

Having now viewed it, I think I can say that I largely disagree with most of the strongly negative reviews.  I think one needs to have a understanding of some aspects of Japanese culture, needs to understand the view of an artist, and needs to approach it looking at what it is trying to say versus how it says it.

An artist gains his inspiration from an open sewer drain.  He enters this drain and finds a dead baby.  Once he is home, he paints the dead baby he found in the sewer.  The next day he goes back.  This time, he finds a real life mermaid.  She is surrounded by filth, garbage, and shit.  She is wounded, has some infection on her, and can't really move.

So, he paints her.  Her paints her there, in the sewer.  So, then the next logical step seems to be to take her to his home.  Once he gets her back home, he puts her in his bathtub and again, continues to paint her.  Her infection has gotten worse, and she now has a section of her stomach covered in colorful boils.  As they spread, she gets worse and worse, but tells the artist that he needs to continue to paint her.

He uses a razor to slash open the boils at one time, spilling out their pus and goopy contents.  This he then captures in a jar, and uses it to paint her.  The infection spreads, taking over her body.  Her pain is mounting every day.  One day he discovers that worms and maggots are crawling out of the infection.  She shrieks as boil after boil erupts with worms.  The next moment she is literally coughing up worms.  Still, she insists, he paint her.  Long story short, she is dying.  He  takes her out of the bathtub, and with a large blade, he kills her.

I realize you're either going to see this, or you're not.  Let me tell you why you should.  Not because of the grossness, the violence, the sheer disgusting levels of vehemence contained in it.  Because at some point everyone needs to see the world the way someone else does.  What this movie is really about is the passion of the artist, his struggle with the inspiration he has, the beauty he finds in rot, in death, in pain and sickness.  This is not a movie about a mermaid dying.  This is a movie about someone finding themselves overwhelmed by a sensation, a need, for inspiration.

This movie is one that is successful in making me relate to another artist.  Not the actor, the mermaid, the artist in the movie.  The artists of the manga, Hideshi Hino.  I feel like I understand him now.


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