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#1 Izo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 04:45 PM

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The current reigning madman of Japanese cinema, Takashi Miike is also one of the most misunderstood filmmakers working today. Fanboys love him for all the wrong reasons (Eli Roth, anyone?) and “serious” film critics and enthusiasts write him off for those very same reasons. Who, really, can blame them when Miike’s films feature with alarming frequency revolting violence and deviant sex, often within the same scene? Criticisms about the violent and sexual content in his films aren’t completely unfounded, either. Miike, for example, is the first and only director I’ve seen who has had a POV shot looking out from the inside of a vagina. To focus on this, however, is to miss out on what a gentle, restrained director Miike has the ability of being. In films like Happiness of the Katakuris and Visitor Q, Miike makes powerful use of his extreme themes and style in order to promote the value of the nuclear family in Japan. Young Thugs: Nostalgia, similarly, is among the best and most moving coming-of-age tales I’ve seen in recent years. Audition is a truly harrowing study of women’s roles in Japanese society. Gozu and Big Bang Love: Juvenile A tell surreal tales of young men coming to terms with their homosexuality. Ichi the Killer and Izo are filmic contradictions: ultra-violent anti-violence statements. That any critic could point to Takashi Miike and say that he has nothing to say just says that he or she isn’t watching very closely.

Miike’s biggest recurring theme is that of the outsider, or more accurately the rootless person. You will find this character in nearly every film that Miike makes - Audition being the only one off the top of my head that would be an exception to this rule. His yakuza films time and again deal with characters who are Chinese but were born and live in Japan. In Rainy Dog, Sho Aikawa’s Japanese hitman hides out in Korea, I believe. Occasionally, this rootlessness in his protagonists is manifested internally, as in MPD: Psycho, where the main character suffers from multiple personality disorder and has only fragmented memories of his past.

Even Miike’s lesser films have long sequences of great, strange beauty. In Young Thugs: Innocent Blood, there is a small film worked into the middle of the film involving a young boy’s search for a protractor. Imprint features some truly stunning, often grotesque photography.

Miike has, in my personal opinion, one of the best eyes for pictoral beauty found in cinema today. I could point to shots in his short film Box, from Three...Extremes, for just one example, that I find absolutely jaw-dropping. I showed a friend of mine Sukiyaki Western Django, and he told me that he didn’t like the film all that much, but the final sequence made the entire experience worthwhile for the visuals alone.

Takashi Miike deserves more in-depth discussion.


Highly Recommended:

Audition
Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive: Birds
Shinjuku Triad Society
Rainy Dog
Ley Lines
Fudoh: The New Generation
MPD: Psycho
Happiness of the Katakuris
Visitor Q
Sukiyaki Western Django (the shorter, American cut is far superior)
Gozu
Big Bang Love, Juvenile A
Young Thugs: Nostalgia
Box (from Three...Extremes)
Izo

Second-Tier:

Dead or Alive: Final
Young Thugs: Innocent Blood

Save for Last:

Yakuza Demon
Sabu
Imprint


Resources:

A Decade with Takashi Miike - Excellent series of articles on several of Miike's post-2000 films.

Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike by Tom Mes

#2 mikesncc1701

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 04:50 PM

Damn, I totally forgot he did Sukiyaki Western Django. That shit was hard. I still have a copy of 3...Extremes lying around I haven't gotten to yet, but may tonight after all this talk. I liked his bit role in Hostel. I thought after Roth being influenced by such films, it was appropriate to give someone like him a cameo.

#3 Izo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 05:00 PM

I really dig Sukiyaki Western Django. I actually think it would've made a great film to put in if they ever made Grindhouse 2.

#4 mikesncc1701

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 05:02 PM

I really dig Sukiyaki Western Django. I actually think it would've made a great film to put in if they ever made Grindhouse 2.

Yeah it would. There have been talks about a sequel to that and even though I welcome films of the faux trailers (Machete is being worked on right now) as it stands, I think it stands great all alone. Probably won't get around to 3...Extremes tonight. A friend just called me and because we didn't do anything last night, we're gonna make up for a missed St. Patty's Day. :)

#5 Izo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 05:05 PM

Yeah it would. There have been talks about a sequel to that and even though I welcome films of the faux trailers (Machete is being worked on right now) as it stands, I think it stands great all alone.


Oh I don't think it'd actually happen, I just mean that's the kind of movie it is. I love the film because I love spaghetti westerns, including the original Django, and I love Miike, but I still think the film is too long...even though I couldn't possibly decide which scenes to cut out.

#6 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 05:12 PM

I have to read if anyone can give positives to Full Metal Yakuza. I could not find much to redeem in this movie. Movies like this (and Ichi) are so misogynistic that it really makes them difficult watches (though Ichi has many interesting ideas, this Robocop retread did not).
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#7 Izo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 05:17 PM

I intentionally excluded Ichi the Killer from the lists up there as I generally like the film, but not enough to throw it in the "Highly Recommended" category, yet I know many would indeed put it up there.

I think it's a good movie, though I can't be much more specific than that since it's been so long since the one time I saw it. I do know that charges of misogyny against it are completely valid.

#8 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 05:18 PM

I intentionally excluded Ichi the Killer from the lists up there as I generally like the film, but not enough to throw it in the "Highly Recommended" category, yet I know many would indeed put it up there.

I think it's a good movie, though I can't be much more specific than that since it's been so long since the one time I saw it. I do know that charges of misogyny against it are completely valid.


I like Ichi overall, I meant has anyone seen Full Metal Yakuza and can state its redeeming values.
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My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

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#9 Izo

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 04:46 PM

Has anyone seen Big Bang Love, Juvenile A or his six-part TV series MPD: Psycho? They're two of his strangest films, and two that I've desperately wanted to discuss ever since seeing them a long time ago, but I have yet to find anyone who has seen them as well.

#10 Izo

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 06:54 PM

City of Lost Souls ****/*****

While the plot is a familiar retread of a couple of Miike's far better works, most obviously Ley Lines, this movie has a lot going for it, especially on a stylistic level. The two leads are incredibly attractive but the characters are absolutely hollow, so it does become difficult to care for them.

The story is occasionally hard to follow, but I have a hard time blaming this on Miike, since the subtitles for the DVD I watched, while far from the worst I've seen, left a lot to be desired. For one thing, when the characters shift between speaking Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and occasionally English, I think there needs to be some sort of differentiation in the subtitles, or at the very least something along the lines of "[in Portuguese]". Other times a character will say something that just plain doesn't make much sense, and I don't know whether this is a fault of the subtitles or whether it's intentional because a character is speaking non-Japanese.

Enough with that, though, the film really shines as a showcase of Miike's trademark gonzo exaggerations. Early on in the film, two characters jump from a flying helicopter (complete with comical sound effects) only to land safely on the ground, completely uninjured. At another point, a shootout turns into a ping-pong match that is interrupted by a giant spinning blade-fan thing.

The movie is weak on characterization, but it's easy to overlook because it's just so damn fun.

#11 Izo

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 05:33 PM

Happiness of the Katakuris ****/*****

I watched this for the third time this afternoon, and the sheer, joyful, goofball weirdness always wins me over. The songs are all sung karaoke-style (that is, not very well), and are pretty forgettable in themselves. The creepy stop-motion animation sequences are hilarious, and the one that opens the film is an inventive metaphor for one of the film's major themes.

Again, just a really fun film. Not all of Miike's ideas stick, but he throws enough at you that more often than not they hit home.

#12 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:05 PM

All of these Takashi Miike posts (mostly from Izo) reminds me that I need to watch more Miike. I certainly own enough of them (even have both versions of Sukiyaki Western Django). When I get past the extra HK films I'm going through I might start including a few of these films. I have only seen a few of Miike's films and by the time I went through Full Metal Yakuza I didn't want to watch another one of his films for quite a while. Ichi The Killer I only watched once but much of that film stayed with me (both good and bad). So far I feel he is intermittently brilliant, but with enough misanthropic and misogynistic vices that make me go into other directors for my cinematic viewings. As I have said earlier I think Audition is his best work. It is analogous to Robin Williams where the best material is where they calm down a bit :).

One thing I have gleaned from his interviews is that he does not storyboard. I'm not sure how complete his scripts are but I think he is probably like the majority of HK directors where scripts are either partial or non-existent.
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Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

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#13 Izo

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 10:47 PM

All of these Takashi Miike posts (mostly from Izo) reminds me that I need to watch more Miike. I certainly own enough of them (even have both versions of Sukiyaki Western Django). When I get past the extra HK films I'm going through I might start including a few of these films. I have only seen a few of Miike's films and by the time I went through Full Metal Yakuza I didn't want to watch another one of his films for quite a while. Ichi The Killer I only watched once but much of that film stayed with me (both good and bad). So far I feel he is intermittently brilliant, but with enough misanthropic and misogynistic vices that make me go into other directors for my cinematic viewings. As I have said earlier I think Audition is his best work. It is analogous to Robin Williams where the best material is where they calm down a bit :).


Sorry for threadhogging, but creating the write-up for this thread renewed my Miike frenzy. If you haven't seen Dead or Alive, Dead or Alive 2: Birds, Gozu, MPD: Psycho, Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, Young Thugs: Nostalgia, or Visitor Q, though, and you own them, I'd suggest starting with those. Those are probably what I consider to be his very best films. I've heard nothing but good things about Bird People of China as well.


One thing I have gleaned from his interviews is that he does not storyboard. I'm not sure how complete his scripts are but I think he is probably like the majority of HK directors where scripts are either partial or non-existent.


Especially in the early years, this is absolutely true. Ever since the late 90s, though, this became less and less common.

#14 Josh Lyman

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 02:36 AM

Sorry for threadhogging, but creating the write-up for this thread renewed my Miike frenzy. If you haven't seen Dead or Alive, Dead or Alive 2: Birds, Gozu, MPD: Psycho, Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, Young Thugs: Nostalgia, or Visitor Q, though, and you own them, I'd suggest starting with those. Those are probably what I consider to be his very best films. I've heard nothing but good things about Bird People of China as well.


Have you seen Crows Zero and Crows Zero II? My friends who are big fans of his (they think he's the best director in movies today) rave about these films. I'm just curious how other Miike fans would compare Crows Zero to the rest of his repertoire.

#15 Izo

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 06:43 AM

Have you seen Crows Zero and Crows Zero II? My friends who are big fans of his (they think he's the best director in movies today) rave about these films. I'm just curious how other Miike fans would compare Crows Zero to the rest of his repertoire.


You know, I haven't seen any of his most recent work except for Sukiyaki Western Django. I've got Zebraman and One Missed Call on my shelf unwatched though.

#16 sexy rancheros

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 10:41 PM

This series might be of interest to those of you interested in Miike: A Decade with Takashi Miike
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#17 Izo

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 11:09 AM

That's really an excellent review of that film - but don't read it if you haven't seen the movie. I truly feel that Dead or Alive 2: Birds is among Miike's greatest works.

#18 Izo

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Posted 15 April 2010 - 04:36 PM

Izo - ****1/2/*****

This is the second time I've seen this strange, unique movie. Obviously I admired it the first time (I stole my name from it), but I couldn't get past the films length and tedium to see how truly special it was. At two hours, 8 minutes the film is undeniably overlong, and it's point is made well within the first 30 minutes, and yet by letting the film drag on and on (it's obviously intentional), somehow makes a greater statement about the cyclical nature and inevitability of violence. I'm not spoiling anything to tell you that the film opens with Izo's death by crucifixion. For the rest of the film, Izo is a nonliving, vengeful spirit intent on killing anything and everything that it comes across, including his mother, Buddhist monks, vampire businessmen, and variations on himself. Izo travels through various time periods, destroying all that he can. Most of what he comes across doesn't make any logical sense. At one point, he has sex with Mother Nature. Indeed, there are no characters to speak of in the film, not even the title character, only walking symbols. Symbols of what? Sometimes it's easy to tell, sometimes not.

What's odd about this film is how it doesn't come off as exploitation simply because is is so violent. Just the opposite, in fact. This is at its very core an arthouse film, one that refuses to deliver the expected goods. Actually, if another filmmaker were to film this script, you'd likely have a very unremarkable, very straightforward chambara film. I don't know what to call the movie I just watched.

The film is trying to sit through, I admit, and the first time I saw it I didn't know if I loved it or hated it. I love it, but I don't know that I can recommend it to anyone looking for anything even remotely conventional. Even Visitor Q and Gozu, to name other Miike masterpieces, are easier films both to watch and enjoy. I enjoy this film, I think it's brilliant. This is one of those very rare movies, though, where six people will have six very different reactions. As with almost all Takashi Miike's movies though, it is often very beautiful to look at and he has a great instinct for shot composition.

I don't suppose I've made much of a case here that this is a good film. I feel that it is, in fact I think it's a great one. I just don't know who would enjoy it.

#19 Izo

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 09:11 PM

This series might be of interest to those of you interested in Miike: A Decade with Takashi Miike


The most recent entry in this series is on Izo, and it's a great read, in my opinion.

#20 Izo

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 08:53 AM

One Missed Call ***/*****

After a long break I decided to use my October horror focus on one of the Miike films that I hadn't gotten around to yet. Despite his reputation, Takashi Miike really hadn't really made that many horror films, only Audition, Imprint, maybe Gozu, and his excellent "Box" segment from 3...Extremes. Not much, considering his massive output. And then there's One Missed Call, a well-made, competent film that knows exactly what it is and is exactly what you expect it to be from the director, a marginally interesting Ringu knockoff with a few genuinely creepy moments amid a lot of dreck, but enough of them to hold your interest. The movie is too long, clocking in at nearly two hours, and the performances are predictably weak. It is nice to see what Miike does with such conventional material, actually, even if the end result is pretty hard to distinguish from, say, The Grudge or Ringu, the films it most obviously mirrors. Miike's beautiful surrealism is absent here, and I daresay that touches of it would have made the film more interesting, but alas. There are a few good scenes, and one that I think is great, taking place in a television studio where the death of one of the students is televised - though the police still seem reluctant to do anything, a ridiculous plot hole that Miike points out himself (he seems to mock the script a few times in the movie, actually) in a few scenes with a couple cops.


Miike's done some interesting things with his career in recent years. He's simultaneously becoming both more and less commercial, with varying degrees of success of course. With mass-appeal films like The Great Yokai War, Zebraman, One Missed Call and Sukiyaki Western Django, Miike seems to be satiating his appetite for some form of mainstream success. On the other hand he's also producing the most experimental works of his career, like Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, Izo, and the experimental stage work Demon Pond, which are all baffling and brilliant in equal parts. One Missed Call is for fans of the director only, and even then with reservations.




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