Visitor Q

*Review from 2004

maxresdefault.jpg

This must rank with Dead or Alive (1-3), and The Happiness of the Katakuris as one of Miike’s most weird, and along with Audition as one of his best. Thanks to the Tartan DVD distributors once again, as no-one else would have the bravery or intelligence to release such fantastic films as these.

The thinking behind Visitor Q involved a company called CineRocket who made 6 films with the COMBINED budget of under £400,000! Miike’s Visitor Q is the final part of the non-connecting series, and according to critic Chris Campion the only rules he had to follow were ‘that it had to be shot on digital video and deal with the theme of pure love’. It is probably true that most viewers of this film will find it sickening, insane, and depraved while having no involvement of love, pure or otherwise. However, it is the lactation of the mother which, in a way brings the family together in love for each other, while before there had only been coldness and isolation. Apparently the act of breast-feeding releases oxytocin in the body, an addictive hormone sometimes called the ‘hormone of love’ (Campion again). Therefore Miike shows love in its purest form.

The film, like so many other Miike features deals with the family, both looking at it as a whole, and looking at the individuals within it. The father is a reporter, shamed by one of his past pieces of work which saw him anally abused by a group of kids. He is searching for a way to boost ratings, to keep his mistress happy, and perhaps redeem himself. He decides to make a film about the youth of Japan and when he decides to get a young prostitute to interview he is surprised to find that it is his daughter who recently ran away from home. One thing leads to another, and almost the first 10 minutes of the film involves Kiyoshi and his daughter in a bed. Questions are asked- ‘Have you ever slept with your daughter? Have you ever been hit on the head? Have you ever hit your mother?’ Kiyoshi is struck on the head by a mysterious young man who then ends up in Kiyoshi’s house. We meet his wife, a heroine addict who is constantly physically abused by their son, who is constantly bullied by other kids. The mysterious Visitor begins to get involved with the family, and when Kiyoshi decides to make a film about the bullying of a son (his) from a father’s perspective, the visitor helps, doing some of the camera-work. He does not seem moved in any way by the violence around him, but he manages to teach each member a lesson which brings them together, apparently against the world. He shows the mother how to lactate which proves to her that she is a normal woman, which completely rejuvenates her. Kiyoshi continues to make his film – we see more violence, death, rape, drugs, necrophilia etc etc. It all becomes completely absurd and hilarious, but the narrative never falls apart and by the end we have been completely sucked in.

Filmed on digital, Miike proves to be a master of the format even with his first attempt. If you get past the first 15 or 20 minutes the film will become less revolting, but no less shocking, and you will find yourself laughing uncontrollably with everything happening. Every scene breaks a taboo or shows something new. The story is interesting throughout, each performance is excellent considering the amount of nudity and the content, the scenes of violence, drugs, and sex all look flawlessly real, and we cannot look away. Of course, most people in the West will never see this film, and many that do may switch off before getting to the end because it is extreme. If you cannot handle extreme films, then stay away. Also, Koji Endo provides another excellent score, the final song-‘Bubble of Water’ by Real Time is perfect for the conclusion ensuring that those final scenes will stick in your head for a long time. If you are a fan of Miike, Japanese film, or extreme movies in general, put this at the top of your list. Unmissable.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen Visitor Q or any other Miike films and what you thought!

Sukiyaki Western Django

SukiyakiWestern.jpg

A muddled and often confused Miike effort, this nevertheless entertains and freaks out in equal measures. With admirable action pieces, plenty of humour, some decent cameos, the film is never subtle, is always excessive in every sense, and is about twenty minutes too long.

Featuring an almost all-Japanese cast speaking almost entirely in English, this feels like another experiment by Miike but unlike those which have succeeded this one is a bit of a stretch. The film does look great, and sound great, seeking to emulate and reverently spoof Spaghetti Westerns and Martial Arts epics. This is supposedly loosely based on historic events, but the plot feels an awful lot like Yojimbo, with a lone gunman riding into a solitary town broken by two warring clans. As the film progresses we learn more about the gunman’s reasons for being there, and learn a little of the history and hatred between the clans, but the central relationship is between the gunman, Ruriko, and her mute grandson. They provide the film’s emotional core and while the characters always feel distant and are never fully realised, there is a surprising amount of emotion in the movie once the killings start. There are laughs caused by outlandish action and violence, plenty of unintentional humour, and a Quentin Tarantino cameo.

I would struggle to recommend this one to anyone who isn’t a Miike fan – maybe uber-Tarantino fans will get a kick out of it, but from an action perspective there isn’t anything here you won’t have seen. The plot is needlessly complicated, there are perhaps too many characters, and it all has that Miike charm which you will either love or hate. It is stylish, looks a treat, and is a unique package. Still, I enjoyed it more than I expected and if you don’t mind a trip down a very weird avenue you might too.

download

Have you seen Sukiyaki Western Django? Do you think it is one of Miike’s best? Let us know in the comments!

Ichi The Killer

Ichi The Killer

Takashi Miike, currently the world’s best, most innovative and prominent director is not one for shying away from taboos or controversy. With the amount of films he makes you may expect them to be little more than B-movie trash. But he continues to defy conventions, pushing the benchmark higher. Audition, Happiness of Katakuris, Visitor Q all prove his endless abilities, and Ichi is no different.

Ichi is an awesome assassin. However, he has his own problems, haunted by a violent past which continually torments him. He does not want to kill, but it is all he can do. He tries to love, but it always seems to end in brutal, bloody death. When a Yakuza boss disappears with lots of money, his men search, creating havoc, killing many and unsettling other bosses. The sadistic and masochistic Kakihara leads them, looking for someone who can give him what he wants-extreme torture. He cuts off part of his tongue, and frequently chops at himself for amusement and to disgust others. Both characters are brilliant, and extremely well acted. They soon run into each other and Kakihara tries to make Ichi give him the pain he desires, while Ichi struggles to work out what is real and what has been fabricated to make him what he is. Many are killed in a very gory, though comic fashion and eventually the two fight on top of a building.

This is a breathtakingly violent film, sometimes hard to watch- particularly the rape scenes, and it is gritty enough that we twitch in our seats each time someone is hurt. However, it is also very funny, Miike transcending genres as always, and the plot is complex at times, though strangely basic in the end. Good acting, cool sets and costumes, excellent effects all make it good to watch, but if you do not like blood or having to work when watching a film, it may be best to avoid this one. Everyone else partake of its bloody goodness, as it is not entirely shocking, but will definitely stay with us.

This DVD (while not the fully uncut version) has plenty of good extra features which many recent foreign DVDs lack. There is a good commentary by critics (not Miike unfortunately), extra footage, and interviews with Miike and some of the cast. A must for fans of extreme cinema, a good introduction to Miike for anyone who is interested, and for anyone braving to see something a bit different-one to give a go.

As always, feel free to leave your comments- what did you make of the controversy surrounding the movie?

The Happiness Of The Katakuris

The Happiness Of The Katakuris

Miike does it again, further proving that he his currently the best director in the world, and that Asia is, and has for the last 5 years been making the best films. Again the main theme of the film is family, as we watch the Katakuri family, four generations and a dog, struggling to start a new life in the countryside by opening a Hotel/Inn. The tone and content of the film is lighter than many of the recent films he has gained Western recognition for, such as Audition, but his trademark weirdness, violence and wonderful originality is all here. Each family member is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses-Great Grandpa hates crows, Grandpa is losing faith in his business and cannot trust his son who is a former thief, Grandma tries to keep the family together and mother will fall in love to easily. Her daughter tells the story, and is largely a solitary figure. Then people start to die.

A guest kills himself, the family cover it up, and Mother falls in love with a psycho. Later, more guests die, and the psycho comes back leading to a police chase, animated mountain side fight, zombie dancers and several musical numbers. Then the Volcano erupts. The use of animation is excellent, the songs are short and catchy, and the story is interesting. There are lots of funny moments, the kinds of moments Hollywood, or anywhere else just cannot give, and every performance is brilliant. Plus the film looks gorgeous as well. Another great film form Takashi Miike, if you take the time to explore his movies, he deserves your praise. Whether he cares about Western recognition is another matter. The last thing to say is that he makes better films than anyone else at the moment. Hollywood director’s make 1 movie every four years, quality average. Takashi- 5 films a year, almost all excellent.

The DVD has trailers, interviews, and thankfully a very good making of. More Tartan DVDs should be like this, as the best movies at the moment are coming from Asia at the moment and it would be good to know more about the cast, and making process.

As always, feel free to leave your comments on the movie- did Miike try to throw too much into this one or does it pay off?

Ichi The Killer: What The Balls!?

I had no idea what was going on here. The Director, Mike Takeshi (An American of Japanese descent) is obviously a man filled with hate and dirty thoughts. Most of his films are filled with the most disgusting scenes this side of witnessing an insane man jogging at dusk near a duck pond with a couple of chocolate fingers protruding from his ears and his slippers made from potato skins. Itchy was filmed not with a traditional camera, but one made from blood. The story if you can even call it a story involves a cry baby who likes to dress up in kinky leathers. He goes around killing people with his shoes he covers their mouths and nostrils with them until the smell overwhelms them) and crying while he does it. I think there was a ghost inside him which was controlling his body, and all the real person could do was cry while the ghost killed everyone. Meanwhile another mental in a different part of the city is looking for someone equally psychotic to fight. He likes causing and feeling pain- we see several gruesome acts he partakes in including giving birth to a cow, cutting holes in his face so he can smoke out of them, attaching a man named Frank to a pile of fishhooks and pulling his flesh off, and juggling the sawn off legs of various prostitutes. Later he goes as far as tucking his trousers into his socks and pretending to be Woody Allen in need of a toilet. This is most disturbing. Eventaully the twain shall meet and have a fight to the death for no reason on the top of a roller-coaster while men with rocket launchers in their coats watch on.

I don’t know what Mike was trying to say with this display of butchery and vulgarity. Perhaps that because we live in such a violent society we should all grab a lump of flaming coal and begin stoning everyone we see in the greengrocers. I usually like his films, but I hated this one and so far I haven’t liked any of his others. I love violence in my films, people being blown up and shot etc, but this goes too far. I don’t know anyone who wants to see an 8 minute scene of someone having their eyelids pulled open by a clothes peg and their eyes ‘soothed’ with a cheese grater. Nor do I wish to be part of the not tasteful flashbacks of crying boy’s youth where his PE teacher made him eat fireworks before the fuse finished burning and they went off in his mouth. Such things are the product of a truly sick mind; the mind of a man who has no place in this world or the next. It is the sight of a mind collapsing; a mistake. Worse than realising that you have run out of nappies after a night of curry and Guiness followed by a vicious mid morning stomach spillage.

Best Scene: The 2 guys fighting on the roller-coaster at the end, the camera swings to a wide view where they fight while jumping over the roller-coaster carts and avoiding rockets being fired at them. This was clearly inspired by Super Smack Brothers on the Nintendy.

Japan
Japan