Shock Value: The Films of Takashi Miike
The majority of American movies, as of late, have been mediocre, if not mostly boring. I’m not giving up on the American cinema; I just need a good rest until a new wave of revolutionary artists wakes me up again…
It was sometimes late last year that I had viewed Audition, the film that caught the American audience’s attention to Takashi Miike. By the time this seemingly romantic film ended, I was nauseated. (You can find a trailer of Audition on YouTube.) There was a certain quiet genius to the movie that I couldn’t define at the moment. But, it left an impression that hung like a weight on my mind as I forced myself to eat my next meal, as I became self-aware of the film… but not much of its creator just yet.
I won’t generalize all Japanese films, but my mind was fresh from the past years of movies like The Ring, Suicide Club, and Battle Royale, just to name a few from the “J-Horror” genre. Of course, I’ve indulged in a lot of Takeshi “Beat” Kitano gangster flicks. And, most of y’all probably hate me for this, I haven’t been too involved in the films of Akira Kurosawa. (I know, time for me to Netflix them!) By all means, to an amateur like me, this selection definitely does not encompass all of Japanese cinema. In fact, the above titles are probably typical of a non-Japanese like me, and moreso reflects me as an American.
After having viewed Audition, I paid no mind to Miike’s work… until of recent months past, when he made a subtle cameo appearance in Eli Roth’s Hostel. It’s the scene involving the protagonist of the film arriving at the “torture club”. We see a seemingly casual mid-age Japanese man shuffling by and warns,”Be careful. You could spend all your money in there.”
My repulsion turned into curiousity…
Takashi Miike is a filmmaker with a history of over 60 films to date since the early 90s, and he’s only in his mid-40s. He’s got a lot more work to fuck with our minds to come. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to catch up and I’d say I’ve only been able to watch 15% of his films (in addition to Audition) – Gozu, the Dead Or Alive trilogy, Ichi The Killer (my favorite!), one of the segments of Three… Extremes, Visitor Q, The City of Lost Souls, Full Metal Yakuza, Fudoh: The New Generation, and Deadly Outlaw: Rekka, to name a few off the top of my head. With this list, most filmmakers only have been able to do as much twice Takashi’s age! You want a taste? Watch the opening sequence to Dead or Alive… One. Two. One… Two… Three… Four… click here
American films are typical of linear or circular story structures. Takashi Miike has his own structure – films that are interlaced with brutal violence, quiet moments of self-meditation (even to sheer intriguing boredom; figure that out), dialogues of no consequence but to speak subtle of the plot (assuming you can figure out what the plot is), change in mood towards dark humour that is hard to define the genre he is filming in, and more continuing brutality of violence. Each of his scene is pure cinematography that is constructed towards a common theme – I hear it’s birds (I can’t explain anymore, ’cause I don’t know). But, you may surmise thus far, he onlys make torture or horror flicks. Nope, Takashi loves making family oriented flicks too – The Bird People in China and The Great Yokai War, to name a couple. Takashi Miike, as a writer/director, is a cross between Lynch, Waters, and the beginning extremities of Kubrick.
American fans of Takashi Miike have been championing for Mr. Miike to make an American film. Although, I doubt the mainstream audience is ready for his works, he has recently done an episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series entitled “Imprint”. Unfortunately (although, not surprising), it was banned from being aired in Northern America for being too graphic (and this was pay cable TV?). It did air in the UK (and other parts of the free world), where viewers in rebellion distributed through P2P. But, don’t fret, the full episode is being released coming Sept. 2006 on DVD. Go grab a copy before the fascist states take over!
And Takashi isn’t a shy personality. You’re bound to find at least one interview included on the “special features” section of every DVD film release by Mr. Miike. His thoughts are as numerous as the number of projects he has filmed. Rarely seen without a pair of sunglasses to foreshadow his face, he carries a look of intensity that compliments his articulation of his ideas.
Most admirable artists are labeled as gods or geniuses by their admirers. I would not subject Miike to such titles. Some may even accuse him of being evil or the work of the devil. No, he is neither of these – I’d say he’s just a filmmaker who is subversive, sometimes rebellious, articulate (if you don’t limit your thinking to literal terms), and highly prolific. You don’t know films until you’ve begun to experience Takashi Miike.
More of Takashi Miike on Wikipedia
Read: Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike