Prisoners of the Ghostland

Prisoners of the Ghostland ★★½

I think I know what happened. Well, perhaps not, but I’d like to think this happened for the sake of simplicity. The screenplay was already written as an indictment of orientalism, where all the major characters except for the Mayor (and maybe Bernice) were Japanese, or at the very least, of Asian descent. It makes sense, and most of this comes through in the final products. Samurai Town exists solely to be a gratuitous display of exoticism, where everything is aestheticised, including it’s populace, all commodified to the point that they are toys for the white mayor (insert: weaboo). Everything object that cannot be narrowed down to a stereotyped aesthetic, any Asian body that can not be used as wank fodder for weaboos goes to the Ghostland. Sure, it lacks depth, yet it is a Sono film after all (though he didn’t write the screenplay, ironically, two westerners did). However, as a criticism of people with this mindset, who sees themselves as a white saviour, it is undeniably effective. Problem is though, this only works when the only white character is clearly disillusioned, having him coexist with a literal white saviour ruins anything this has going for it. And I think Cage was originally supposed to play the mayor, that character is eccentric as hell after all and seems to be a role Cage was born to play, and the saviour was supposed to be Asian, I think, with the ending being a triumphant victory of people uprising against their oppressor, instead of people being saved by their oppression by another white dude. But then the guys writing the screenplay went too far in their creativity, they decided that wouldn’t it be great if Cage got his testicles blown off, great if he was repeatedly mocked by the Japanese people, and these are all fun ideas, but don’t work unless if he is the saviour. Again, this is purely hypothetical and most likely not what happened at all, yet I can’t help but find 2 things to be abundantly clear. First is that this is a film with something meaningful to say about colonialism, secondly, that all of this is undone by its own hypocrisy. It’s a fun film at times, yet, not fun enough for me to tire of the relentless orientalism, which again I’m certain was done with the best intentions of commentary, yet at the same time, it falls victim to due to its own incompetency.

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