Amir Naderi's brutal ode to cinephilia is a film that riffs on ideas of originality and the death of cinema leaving the viewer feeling as though they have taken several of the beatings administered to the lead character, Shuji, played unrelentingly by Hidesoshi Nishijima. Cut, provides an antidote to the films that the Shuji rages against. His is a strange existence. He finds tranquility at the headstones of great directors rather than his brother's who is killed for running up a large debt to allow his sibling to make his own films. Indebted to the yakuza, he asks gangsters and hoodlums to pay him small sums and in return he will take whatever they can throw at him until he cannot stand. There is so much blood that at several points the film becomes difficult to watch but that is the director's clear intention: this is not a 'popcorn and Coke' kind of film.
Though a film about an obsessive filmmaker is hardly new ground for Naderi, who has spent decades plundering fresh and bold ideas into his films with varying degrees of success, there is an honesty and brutality about Cut which makes it probably his most significant film for quite some time. Many viewers will find that there is little by way of subtext here, but this film is not simply about a man determined to take vicious beatings in order to pay off his late brother's debt and somehow find redemption in the process. As Shuji crawls into his bed after a day of taking punches for money, films are projected onto his body in very moving sequences as though he is living them, as if in fact they are a part of him. They bathe his body.
Tellingly, Cut has a look that seems familiar and you quickly get the sense that the director is doing something much more interesting than simply having characters beat a man to bloody pulp in a bar. The woman behind the bar is like the woman behind the bar in every film like this - decent, kind, pretty. The old man who sits at the bar is so obviously out of place you almost laugh, but there is always an old man at the bar. The gang members file in one by one and stand in comically exaggerated stances the way that has (unfortunately) become the norm in modern Japanese cinema. Naderi has made a film so littered with references that he puts Tarantino to shame but there is no doubt he has made a film that film geeks will delight in.
The constant nods to Buster Keaton are perhaps most crucial, for this is a film as funny as it is dark. Shuji, seeking to withdraw himself from a particularly violent beating he is in the process of receiving, finds solace in the fact that great cinema still exists, somewhere. "Shit Movies!" he screams over and over as the punches hammer at his face and body until he can no longer walk. If not for the graphic ferocity of these scenes you would laugh at the sheer absurdity and humour they provide. Cut is a film you are unlikely to see at a multiplex anywhere in the world, something Shuji would no doubt take great pride in.