Friday, December 8, 2023
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House Review

Branching from a similar school of thought to that of David Lynch, House is nonsense. It is a good variety of nonsense, in the vein of wackiness and emotive imagery, but an unforgiving one. Nobuhiko Ōbayashi is an unappeasable director and an even harsher artist. Who am I to stand in the way of a vision? Am I responsible for the misfortune of not being carried away by the infinitely surmountable fun House can provide? Honestly, yes. I’m at fault here. It’s not you, Ōbayashi, it’s me. My reconciliation of cult cinema has failed me once again. But House fails in many departments too, and despite the reputation it has garnered in recent years, it is that school of Lynch that I cannot remove myself from.

While I do not doubt the vision Ōbayashi has for his editing, I do doubt its effectiveness. Random pockets of slow-motion, slide cuts, random zooms and special effects layer the lens of the camera. Riflescope shots that depict one character unmoving or anxious, as the others surround a great, merry old time, it is all very innovative for the time and interesting to see, but the effect on the narrative is one of absolute confusion. In fact, it is the random barrage of technical effects that I find most endearing about House, for it is something I have not seen before. When a film is this unique, it can either be a fun, eventful romp through a combination of genres (as House is), or a challenge on what we, the audience, think of when we think of the new standard of filmmaking (which House does not do).

Like it or loathe it, we are thrown off of the steady pedestal a narrative can provide. The editing here, with its fades to black and its sudden bursts of colour and panning camera through the streets reminds me of early morning children’s shows. That does appear to be the intention, especially when considering the soundtrack and how Ōbayashi follows the comedic misadventures of a random bunch of characters. Sight gags are a treat at times, but less is more. Two cowboys holding rifles and walking through a train station elicit more of a laugh than a man who falls into a bucket and skirts down the street and in front of a car. Still, these earlier moments are warm and endearing compared to the visual car crash offered by the climax of the movie. Effects may not age well, but they can still have an impact. In the case of House, they are its definitive issue. Not the quality, but the reasoning of them. They are ideas that sound well and innovative, but their utilisation is hectic, bizarre and does little for any form of competent narrative styling. But, it seems Ōbayashi couldn’t care less for narratives.  

There is no denying the steady innovation throughout, but the blurring of so many styles and tropes makes for gimmick-like effects, rather than that of any free, formative impression. Ōbayashi clashes and collates such a wide range of styles and themes, it is impossible to untangle the web he has made. House is erratic and messy, and that should be its definitive, endearing quality. Instead, it is, ironically, the innovation that stifles it. Unconventional filmmaking should be praised, but when it is so inconsistent and unforgiving of the audience members who need a moment to breathe, it is hard to forgive Ōbayashi all that much for this display of manic freedom. It is the shoddiness that appeals, and while it may not be my cup of tea, it is reassuring that I can grasp why it would be enjoyed. Those moments that work for thee do not for me. Still, I can respect the challenge Ōbayashi has for the medium of the art form, and should we see more from the contemporary artists of today, then at least there will be some semblance of interest in the years to come from filmmakers.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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