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Movie Review: The Last Supper

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Issei Sagawa served time in a French jail for the murder of the Dutch student Renée Hartevelt, a classmate at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris. In June 11, 1981, Sagawa was studying avant garde literature. He invited her to dinner under the pretense of literary conversation. Upon her arrival, he shot her in the neck with a rifle while she sat with her back to him at a desk, then began to carry out his plan of eating her. She was selected because of her health and beauty, those characteristics Sagawa believed he lacked. In interviews, Sagawa describes himself as a "weak, ugly and small man" and claims that he wanted to "absorb her energy." — Wikipedia

I could not sleep. My ears woke me up around four in the morning. They stung and itched and — not sure why, exactly — made me think of how awful it must have been for Lon Chaney Jr. to sit through his Wolf Man makeup sessions with Jack Pierce. But unlike Pierce's painstaking application of yak hair, strand by strand, I had to endure a painful, heavyweight tag-team electrolysis smackdown on my ears' hair follicles, earlier that day. In a perversely skewed Newtonian Law of Equilibrium, my ears started growing hair when my scalp stopped doing so.

I headed to the kitchen for an early breakfast. Not surprisingly, I found Zombos paging through Weekly Weird Asia World News as he sipped a hot chocolate. His insomnia, aided by Zimba's snoring, usually kicked in around this time of the morning. Chef Machiavelli stood by the stove, flipping one of his succulent pancake omelettes — with oyster filling, judging by the aroma. I flashed a deuce sign for him to make another one and joined Zombos at the table. He poured a cup of caffè corretto for me and slid the Sambuca over, but I reached for the cognac instead: I needed something stronger to quell the sturm und drang in my ears.

I picked up Weekly Weird Asia's Living section and thumbed through it. "This is interesting. Here's an article on Issei Sagawa, Japan's Celebrity Cannibal. He's opening a sushi bar. My, my… guy goes and eats his classmate, gets off on a technicality, and becomes a minor celebrity. Tastes like tuna, he said."

"I giapponesi sono pazzeschi," said Chef Machiavelli, serving the omelettes. He snatched the ketchup bottle from my hand before I could uncap it. I reached for the pepper and waited for him to nod okay. He nodded.

"Yes, they are a crazy bunch at times," I agreed, shaking a little black pepper onto his culinary masterpiece. I wonder if he'll do that nyotaimori thing where they use a naked girl as a dinner plate to serve sushi and sashimi. Hmmm… that might not be a good idea for him, now I think of it. Maybe he'll — no, I doubt he'd go for that other odd trend of theirs, where a fake body is made out of food so you can operate on it and eat whatever you find inside. The thing actually bleeds as you cut it and the intestines and organs inside are completely edible they say. Cooked I think. Wait a minute; that might be something for our Halloween party. What do you think? We could bake up a life-sized meatloaf zombie, with all the rotten–"

"Must you?" asked Zombos, a forkful of omelette poised at his lips. "You know, since you're up, you should finish that review for Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse. Then perhaps move on to more pressing things like finishing the review for the Alone In the Dark Wii game, or maybe even Karloff's The Mummy Special Edition DVD review, or — and I'm brainstorming here — perhaps even tackle some of those Permuted Press books — that pile is not getting any shorter you know. Halloween is just around the corner and you'll need to pick up the slack a bit. Why, you might even try finishing that Bartholomew of the Scissors comic book you left out on the library table, you know, the one that scared Zombos Jr's wits clear to Sunday thinking it was an Archie comic, or maybe — and I am really going out on the limb of possibilities here — post that Sundays With Vlad review, the one you should have posted last September.

A forkful of omelette was now poised at my lips. Chef Machiavelli took pity on me and handed back the ketchup bottle. "Sure," I said, "I'll get right on it after breakfast. First things first, though."

As I savored my hearty breakfast before attending to the chores of the day, I wondered if Dr. Yuji Kotorida, the nebbish plastic surgeon to the rich and famous, in director Osamu Fukutani's The Last Supper (Saigo no bansan), felt as overwhelmed with it all as I did. At least I had Chef Machiavelli's golden touch with food to provide comfort. All Kotorida had was liposuctioned fat from his fat cat clients. With long, juicy close-ups of it sizzling in his frying pan, I found myself stopping and starting the movie until my stomach adjusted accordingly. Clearly, The Last Supper is not a film to watch before any meal — or listen to for that matter. While it spends little money on realistic body parts (they look more like Halloween props), more effort is spent to get those ripping, squishy-squashy-spongy sounds just right as Kotorida prepares his meals. I still get queasy thinking about them and the sound of the liposuctioned fat, in all its greasy-gloppy glory, cooking on the stove.

What leads Dr. Kotorida to chew the fat, so to speak, is his desire to overcome his ineptitude in mind and body. Overcoming the gag reflex — mine, not his — I watched in flashback how his first, melts-in-the-mouth taste experience of the forbidden transforms him into a handsome new man, a lady-killer who happens to eat them, too. His Windigo psychosis heats up when he comes across a suicide in the woods. Taking the body home and carving it up provides him with plenty of leftovers in the fridge to satisfy his appetite. Of course, this being a horror movie, women are the only items on his menu.

Unlike Hannibal Lecter, another doctor with a penchant for human sweetmeats, Kotorida is more introspective and philosophical, and always eats whom he kills. Through his narration we view him as charming, even if seriously screwed up inside. Fukutani's direction is meditative, even when displaying the nauseating aspects of Kotorida's story. While there are copious amounts of viscous blood and unpleasant, close-up body carvings, it is Kotorida's reflections on his unique appetite that quietly and meticulously move the story to its grisly wedding scene climax.

LAST_SUPPER-1But before we get to sample the wedding reception's special buffet — it puts to shame any ice sculpture I have ever seen — narrated flashbacks show us how he satisfies his need for fresh meat. Stumbling on the corpse in the woods may have sent his taste buds into ecstasy, but they desired something less gamy. Rumor sends him searching for the cannibals' equivalent of a Trader Joe's grocery store. In a series of scenes very similar in structure and flow to Hostel, he is tantalized by a woman at a discotheque, who intentionally blocks his pursuit of a man he suspects can give him what he desires most. We quickly find out why.

She takes him to a special dining place, where patrons wait anxiously for the floor show to end and their very expensive dinner to be served. In a twisted Benihana-like experience, where part of the fun is watching the preparation of the meal, the meal in this restaurant puts on a bloody good show instead. A disorienting scene, shot in primary colors, filtered through the amoral detachment of the patrons, exposes Kotorida to a secret world of forbidden tastes available for a price. Unlike the secret world in Hostel, however, victims here are willing to become a pot pie for the sake of a large sum of money, which will go to their families.

I find it amazing that with all this fine dining, Kotorida does not add an inch to his waistline. And his only indigestion comes from Yumi, a nurse who becomes infatuated with him. He spurns her, but she blackmails him into a dinner date. That does not go as you might guess, so — dare I say it — he does not make yummy out of Yumi; but you will need to see what happens to understand what I mean. The two of them do manage to share a tender moment drenched in blood and body parts.

The Last SupperAside from making lots of flank steaks and meat patties, he spends a lot of time blogging about his dinner dates, seasoning preferences, and cannibalistic tendencies. I am not sure what this is supposed to say about bloggers in general, or his readers in particular, but I bet his page hits are remarkable. Of course, whatever you say or do online can come back to haunt you, and soon a detective is hot on his trail, but not for the obvious reason. Taking advantage of the face-saving situation (you will know what I mean when you watch the movie), Kotorida makes his getaway; or does he?

I recommend seeing this film with subtitles. Reading them will help keep your eyes off the more unpleasant scenes, although the sounds may still make you gag a little here and there. If you are a daring sort of person you can throw a Big Mac party. Invite everyone over to eat and watch the film at the same time. Make sure to offer a wonderful prize to anyone who can keep his or her meal down. It's a safe bet: I doubt anyone will win.

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