Organ (1996)
Synapse Films
Extras: Scenes from

When we think of genre films from Japan, we generally think of rubber monster suits, "Pokemon", or Anime. Well, apparently Godzilla, Pikachu, and Akira are all out of town, because Synapse Films is bringing us the darker side of Japanese film with "Organ." This blood-soaked movie avoids the cute/silly/clever mold that most Japanese media falls for and goes straight for the jugular (literally) with its bizarre story of organ thefts and degenerates. "Organ" has recently been released on DVD by Synapse Films and is being presented for the first time in its uncut form in the US.

"Organ" opens with a scene that is similar to the opening of "Hard Boiled" — that is if David Cronenberg had directed it. This scene has two undercover police officers, Numata and Tusaka, trailing a gang of organ thieves. When an unconscious man is left at a hospital, a mysterious car comes from nowhere and whisks the man away. The police follow the car to the "slaughterhouse" of the organ thieves. There, they sneak into the operating room to witness the carnage that has already taken place. We are here introduced to Yoko (director Kei Fujiwara) the leader of the gang, and Jun, her brother, a doctor who performs the organ extractions. When the police realize that the latest victim is still conscious, they attack Yoko and Jun. Numata is injured and Tusaka is taken by Jun, who, with Yoko, escapes.

Following this exciting opening, the film then introduces several subplots. Numata gets suspended from the police force, but continues searching for Tusaka. Tusaka’s brother, who is also a cop (I think) scours the city looking for his brother. Jun has taken a position at a girl’s school and is randomly killing the students to "aid in his research". It is revealed that Yoko has gotten involved with a company to further finance her organ thievery. All of these subplots collide as Numata gets closer to finding Tusaka and learning the deadly truth behind the organ stealing gang.

As you can probably guess from that bizarre plot synopsis, "Organ" is quite a unique film. Writer/director Kei Fujiwara was in the original "Tetsuo" film, so she knows a thing or two about odd movies. "Organ" plays like a cross between David Lynch and Davd Cronenberg with a pinch of Stuart Gordon thrown in to boot. The storyline takes a backseat to the bizarre imagery and intense relationships between the characters. In fact, at times, the story seems to go away entirely, leaving the film to focus on the grotesque images which populate the world of "Organ."

The strange storyline is made even weirder by Fujiwara’s bizarre filmmaking technique. The film is oddly edited, with scenes suddenly stopping, cutting to another unrelated scene, and then cutting back to the original scene where it had left off. This serves two purposes: 1) it keeps the viewer off balance, and 2) it subtly tells us that the lives of all of these characters are intertwined and will somehow clash in the end. Also, Fujiwara fills the film with odd camera angles and colorful lighting, helping to complete the otherwordly feeling. Still, everything in the film has a layer of grime that keeps it grounded in reality. The only exception to this is a scene where Jun imagines a woman being born from a cocoon. This scene is very surreal and downright weird. There are also some sepia-toned flashback scenes which are done quite nicely. While I fully realize that "Organ" is more about emotional-impact than concrete storytelling, I do wish that the film had been more coherent. There were times when I found myself completely lost, but the intense imagery kept me glued to this movie. I still don’t know who the really big guy in the green hat was though.

As the film deals with organ-snatching, it can be assumed that it is gory, and trust me, it is. In most every scene in the film, at least one character is covered in blood. Several characters suffer from some sort of infection/rotting (it’s never really explained) which causes them to be covered in sores. The special effects are never hidden in the film. Fujiwara parades the walking-wounded proudly in front of the camera. However, the wounds never look fake or have that "latexy" look. This may be due in part to the overall darkness of the film. Unfortunately, as the credits were in Japanese, I do not know who handled the impressive and creative makeup.

The "Organ" DVD from Synapse films offers the uncut version of the film. The film is presented full-frame, as it was originally shot with an <$OpenMatte,open matte>. The picture is crisp and clear throughout the film. However, the digital clarity of the film does reveal many defects in the source print, such as scratches and grain. (I can’t say for sure, but "Organ" appears to have been shot on 16mm and then blown up to 35mm.) As "Organ" was a low-budget film, one can assume that this was the best print available for transfer. The bizarre color scheme employed by Fujiwara does come across nicely in this DVD presentation. The blacks are very deep, allowing the oft-used greens and reds in the film stand out.

The audio on "Organ" is a <$DD,Dolby Digital> Mono for the Japanese soundtrack. This mix is adequate, keeping the dialogue and sound effects from drowning each other out. Also, the interesting techno soundtrack comes across well in this audio mix. The easy-to-read English subtitles are white and appear on the film image.

The only true extra on the DVD are exclusive scenes from "Organ 2". We are treated to about 22 minutes of scenes from this film. These scenes are accompanied by commentary by Kei Fujiwara, who returns to write and direct the sequel. For the most part, Fujiwara’s comments are not scene specific, but she does a good job (in excellent English) of explaining what here goals were with the film. Also, on the DVD are two bonus trailers, one for "Brain Damage" and one for "Vampyros Lesbos", which appears to be in German with English subtitles.

While "Organ" was the "Re-animator"-esque freakshow that I’d hoped it would be, it’s still an interesting movie. But, be warned, "Organ" is only for those with strong stomachs who are searching for something outside of the mainstream. The film offers many bizarre and potentially offensive visuals, coupled with characters who give the term "morally bankrupt" a new meaning. (And now I finally know what the word "hentai" means.) If you are interested in seeing the Far Eastern take on David Cronenberg’s theory of body politics, then I suggest that you check out "Organ".

Trust me, this is one "organ" that you won’t be seeing in church.