Americana Kamikaze review – film noir and Japanese horror chill reality into a dream | Theatre

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The supernatural horror genre has been masterfully and graphically rendered on film with clever camera work. How can the contemporary horror play ever hope to compete with the scary movie?

Americana Kamikaze finds a pragmatic solution: film is fused with stage drama to create an intriguing hybrid. Temporary Distortion, the producer of this show – performed in New York in 2009 and now available online – has long combined artistic forms and brought film and installation together on stage.

Co-created by William Cusick and Kenneth Collins (the latter also wrote and directed), the production involves actors speaking from inside lifesize shadow boxes at either end of the stage while an accompanying film plays on a screen. The boxes create a claustrophobic effect between the characters, who play out the tensions and paranoias of a relationship ending in violence and demonic revenge. Their dialogue has an intensity that is strange at first but becomes magnetic.

Film noir tropes combine with those from Japanese horror and the story is told elliptically. Impressionistic sequences on screen blend with John Sully’s jagged soundtrack and reality seemingly coalesces with fantasy, taking on the pace and strangeness of a dream.

Distances and dishonesties ... Americana Kamikaze.
Distances and dishonesties … Americana Kamikaze. Photograph: Temporary Distortion

This unpinning of normal life chimes with the drama’s greater theme of the distances or dishonesties within relationships. “I know where you go at night,” says an unnamed female character (Yuki Kawahisa) to her partner (Ryosuke Yamada). “I never go anywhere,” he replies, “It’s all in your head. It’s a dream.”

Because of the jumps in time and place, the plotline is at times opaque. The central story revolves around a single couple, an infidelity and a murder, but it is not always clear which of the four actors is playing whom, and Japanese is mingled with English without always being translated for added disorientation.

There are some gimmicky edges to the piece’s creepiness and several over-familiar horror ideas are rolled out: a screeching phone that remains unanswered, a film of an empty hotel corridor that looks like a shot from The Shining, a long-haired succubus who moves towards the screen, her mouth opening as if to swallow it, like the avenging figure from Ring.

The problematic gender politics of traditional film noir are there, too: the quietly murderous men, the eroticised violence against women, (“Some men, they enjoy a girl’s body all black and blue,” says Brian Greer’s character), and the mix of love, lust and jealousy that inevitably leads to the torture or death of a woman.

But strangely, Americana Kamikaze feels both chilling and original nonetheless, possibly because these stock-in-trade aspects feel reinvented in this theatrical arrangement. In the few instances when bloody violence erupts, it startles, but more often the horror is intimated, and there is potency in its constantly buzzing threat.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Americana Kamikaze review – film noir and Japanese horror chill reality into a dream | Theatre

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