Dirs: Fruit Chan, ParkChan-Wook, Takashi Miike. HK-Jap-S Kor. 2004. 127mins.

The second of twothree-part omnibus films at this year's Venice Film Festival (the other was theWong Kar-Wai/Soderbergh/Antonioni collaboration Eros), Three Extremes is a tasty showpiece forthree of Asia's hottest directors. In market terms, they are a well-chosen trio- far more so than the Eros threesome, whose only common denominator isthe fact that they are all big-name filmmakers.

Here, on the other hand,producer Applause Pictures has niche-targeted the cult edge of the Asian market- that worldwide band of afficionados that laps up anything by Takashi Miike,was turned onto Park Chan-Wook even before the Grand Prix for Old Boy atCannes this year consecrated his reputation, and managed to sit through FruitChan's Public Toilet (2002) because, well, anything by Fruit Chan hasgot to be worth seeing, even if it isn't.

The film's title even winksat Tartan's successful Asia Extreme brand - so it's no surprise to discover thatTartan picked it up at Venice for the UK, with Lion's Gate clinching US rights.One of the first gift-wrapped variety packs for the Asian cult market, itpromises to play at least as well on DVD as in theatres.

For an omnibus film, Three Extremes has an excellent battingaverage. If anything, it's Miike who will let his fans down a little: hisoffering, Box, is (believe it or not) the least extreme of the threemini-films. With some of the measured, ritualistic flavour and pace of TakeshiKitano's Dolls, this tragic vignette about a successful female novelistwho is haunted by a childhood trauma is narrated almost without words, ineerie, empty spaces (what looks like an abandoned school; a provincial circustent in a waste of snow) suffused with an other-wordly blue light. Though itlooks great, the whole exercise is a little too mannered, a little tooknowingly pitched to the arthouse.

The other two contributions,however, are real treats.

Fruit Chan's Dumplingsis one of the best things the Hong Kong maverick has ever done: a textbookexercise in the management of horror, it tells the story of Qing (MiriamYeung), a no-longer-young former TV star who is determined to rejuvenate, sothat she can win her husband back from his younger lover. So she does what anyreasonable woman would do: she eats human foetuses, chopped up and made intodumplings by the slightly unhinged Mei (Bai Ling).

The real stroke of geniushere is in the counterpoint between the yeuch! storyline and the limpid beautyof Chris Doyle's photography, which lingers on the chopping-board and caressesQing's ever-smoother, ever-younger skin, to the accompaniment of a sereneclassical soundtrack.

In Cut, ParkChan-Wook gives us a meta-cinematic spin on the revenge theme that underlies somuch of his work. It gives flesh to every filmmaker's favourite nightmare: anextra with a grudge breaks into a famous and notoriously good-natureddirector's apartment, ties up his wife and, at gunpoint, forces Mr Nice Guy toprove that, deep down, he has a nasty streak.

There is some nice,Day-for-Night-style undermining of the cinematic illusion (the director's hometurns out to be a film set, and when he puts a CD in the hi-fi it becomes thesoundtrack). And though the segment has its Grand Guignol, show-off side, Parkcertainly knows how to dose out the dramatic tension.

Prod co: Applause Pictures
Bom Film Production, CJEntertainment, Kadokawa Pictures
Int'l sales:
Fortissimo Films
Peter Ho-Sun Chan (Dumplings); Ahn Soo-Hyun (Cut); Naoki Sato,Shun Shimizu & Fumio Inoue (Box)
Lilian Lee, from her own novella; Park Chan-Wook; Haruko Fukushima
Christopher Doyle; Chung Chung-Hoon; Koichi Kawakami
Tin Sam-Fat, Chan Ki-Hop; Kim Sang-Bum, Kim Jae-Bum; YasushiShimamura
Prod des:
Yee Chung-Man; Yoo Seong-Hee; Takashi Sasaki
Chan Kwong-Wing; Peach; Kouji Endo
Main cast:
Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Tony Ka-Fai Leung; Lee Byung-Hun, LimWon-Hee, Gang Hye-Jung; Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe