Takashi Miike  



A very prolific, restless and whimsical director who explores any genre and type of movie at a whim, including horror, crime, thriller, drama, comedy, sci-fi, comic book, manga, family movies, splatter, teenage vampires, art and musicals. Often pegged as a maker of shock and extreme movies but this is actually only part of his repertoire. His favorite genre that he often comes back to is the Yakuza crime-action-drama. He also enjoys taking a popular movie or established genre and making it his own, exploring its cliches with little twists or touches of wry, black humor. His output consists of about 4 to 8 movies a year, with the occasional over-the-top release that gleefully breaks taboos and explores creative, twisted, violent extremities, fetishes, perversions or gory deaths. Even his more conventional movies often have the surprising odd scene of twisted humor. The quality and style of his movies are high despite the rapid pace but one flaw with this rapid movie-making factory however is that often the writing is too whimsical and light, his plots and characters sometimes serve as a mere backdrop for his own demented or wry ideas of fun, and any kind of careful construction or mood is thrown away in favor of ad-hoc creativity, humor and whim. After 16 years of movie-making however, he is showing signs of maturing and is creating more consistent and disciplined movies, but no one can predict what his next movie will be. He can still produce a musical, an exploitative movie about extreme violence, a kids fantasy movie, and a slow-paced chambara remake, all in a single year.

Recommended

Fudoh: The New Generation  
Young Fudoh witnesses his father killing his older brother for the Yakuza's honor and vows to create a new and powerful crime-world for young blood. His own gang consists of talented teenagers and small children that murder one old boss after another in creative ways. The movie tries to say something about an endless cycle of violence and change only bringing in new killings, but ultimately this is merely a very stylish, energetic and twisted Miike flick with acid deaths, vaginal bullets, hermaphrodite sex, decapitations, near-immortal giants, and the usual bloody shootings.

Ichi the Killer  
An incredible tour-de-force of extreme S&M, gore and twisted black humor. Kakihara loses his Yakuza boss whom he loves for his passionate brutality and torture. Kakihara imaginatively tortures everyone in his way and is on the lookout for someone that can beat him up with the same passion. Enter Ichi the Killer, a psychotic cry-baby that cries and gets a hard-on when he is bullied, and then chops up his bullies into little pieces. Ichi is manipulated by a contractor assassin into carving up some Yakuza 'bullies'. Will Kakahira find his true love at last?

Of Some Interest

As the Gods Will  
It's like a blend of Battle Royale and Saw except without the gore and realistic ultra-violence, and with an emphasis on the ridiculous, using traditional toys as monsters, making me think of a Hitoshi Matsumoto flick. High-school kids all over the world are suddenly put through a series of brutal games, where toys and dolls come to life, coming up with a game of death involving ridiculous rules and variations on traditional games like Kick the Can, causing much drama and tension amongst the teenagers as the best and worst of them emerges. But this is impossible to take seriously or even as pulp entertainment like with Battle Royale, seeing as the monsters include a huge cat that eats them, a head that plays 'Statues' except that anyone caught is decapitated in a shower of red balls, and so on. Entertaining, strange and whimsical silliness, Miike-style.

Audition  
A surprisingly focused and meaningful movie by Miike and this makes it all the more disturbing. It starts as a gentle drama about a man that loses his wife and tries to find a replacement seven years later by giving auditions to actresses. Things start looking bad when the "classy and obedient" girl waits obsessively by the phone, and keeps some kind of creature in a cloth sack. Things end worse than anyone expects with stomach churning torture scenes as a grand payoff for the heretofore involving and touching drama. This psychological bombshell can also be taken as an extreme feminist statement.

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A  
An accompanying artsy piece to Izo. Whereas Izo both meditated on and celebrated an orgy of bloodshed in a historical and metaphysical setting, this shorter piece seems to be exploring the idea of virile, aggressive, uncontrollable, violent manhood as an endless, hereditary and social cycle from the beginning of time. Miike decided this is intrinsically connected with sex so the setting becomes a male prison with violent and homosexual drives. Two young men are put in prison for murder, one the ultimate symbol of aggression and strength, and the other more effeminate and sensitive. When the combative man is found dead seemingly at the hands of the other, a strange investigation ensues that feels more like a Godardesque cinematic meditation. A space ship and Mayan pyramid sit next to the prison, waiting to take men to outer space or to heaven respectively, butterflies flutter into the scenery, and other symbolic, colorful and bizarre sets decorate this artsy but unfocused experiment.

Dead or Alive  
A mostly tame Yakuza story by Miike's standards, but scattered amidst the story of a slowly escalating war between Yakuza, a Chinese mafia and the police are random scenes of bestiality, Russian roulette, the drowning of a girl in her own feces and a man who rips his own mangled arm off. At times dramatic and realistic but typically schizophrenic with erratic style-changes and a completely over-the-top bizarre finale.

Dead or Alive: Final  
The last in the trilogy is a tongue-in-cheek homage (or ripoff) of Blade Runner with Matrix-style action and a funny finale spoofing Tetsuo. This low-budget sci-fi action movie features replicants faster than bullets, some of whom don't know they are replicants and others who wonder if they can love and fit in with humans. The world of these existentially challenged robots is run by a homosexual mayor who keeps a half-naked saxophonist under his thumb while forcing the rebellious population to take contraceptive drugs so that they will know pure and eternal love.

Full Metal Yakuza  
Another piece of violent entertainment that is a mixture of campy humor and twisted creativity. A meek Yakuza man is turned into a poor-man's Robocop after being murdered. It plays it straight and bloody for most of the movie but typical Miike elements creep in such as kicking a disembodied head a few miles through town, a woman that bites her own tongue off, huge penises, very quirky characters, and the grafting of body parts.

Gozu  
A blend of Lynch atmospherics and bizarre dream-logic, and Miike's twisted creativity and absurdist humor, which is at times fascinating, but generally just strange and slow. A Yakuza loses the corpse of his demented brother after a freak accident and wades his way through a community of strange characters in search of him. But of course the star of this movie is the sequence of surreal events and characters. A small dog is swung and smashed against a window, inn keepers lactate and feed their guests breast milk, cafes feed their guests other peculiar substances, a man shoves soup ladels into his anus, people lose their skin and change genders, and much more... The climax features the most twisted sex scene ever committed to celluloid which involves incest, a gender-bender, gore, a vagina with a built-in hand, and the birth of a full-grown man. Don't ask.

Great Yokai War, The  
Miike does another children's movie, this time somewhere in between a cheesy Teenage Mutant Turtle children's action flick and a more magical, charming nature-friendly Miyazaki movie by way of Miike's crazy imagination. The Yokai are ubiquitous but mostly invisible spirits in various shapes and forms (turtles, walls, bean washers, umbrellas) that are usually good but sometimes go bad. When evil takes over due to man's anger and indifference, a 10 year old kid is chosen as the heroic saviour to defeat the evil with a magical sword. Entertaining, wild and fun with touches of Miike's genre twisting, but too childish and cheesy at times.

Imprint  
Part of the Masters of Horror series. Miike does the usual over-the-top undisciplined sickness thing here to shock and horrify the viewer. An American visits a hellish Japanese whorehouse in search of his lost love and finds a freak prostitute with a story to tell. The story gets more and more horrific with every version, involving cringing torture scenes a la Audition, abortion gore and a bizarre mutation worthy of Henenlotter. Miike twisted entertainment but marred by extremely bad acting.

Izo  
Yet another new style for Miike, this one mixing surreal symbolism, Godardesque philosophical musings, very gory sword fights, dreamy Kurosawa-like scenes, and the usual Miike touches of absurdity and dark humor. Izo is a brutal assassin who has become pure evil. He represents brutality, nihilism, and the irrational and imperfection of humanity, and slowly turns into a demon as he wanders between different time-periods and scenes, killing everyone in his path. Extreme anachronisms like SWAT teams in medieval Japan emphasize the purity and timelessness of his evil and as he impregnates the mother of all mankind and kills samurai, police, citizens, gangs, salary-men, students, Yakuza, Buddhist monks, vampire salesmen, his lover, his mother, and children, the boring repetition wears him down and makes him question his existence. But he is here to serve humanity by personifying all that is evil, and mysterious characters keep popping in to muse and sing on all of these ideas. Of course Miike can't help but inject his absurd humor and there are buckets of bizarre, incomprehensible imagery. This one doesn't leave you very satisfied but is Miike at his most creative, pensive, challenging and artistic.

Ley Lines  
The third in the Shinjuku trilogy based loosely on the themes of outsiders in society and crime. After the violence of the first, and the heart and Kitano-like Rainy Dog, this one brings all of Miike's elements together. A group of first-generation Japanese born of Chinese parents try their hand at various petty crimes, leaving their small hometown and then Tokyo for Brazil to try to find a place where they can fit in. Along the way they meet a Chinese prostitute, a Japanese drug dealer, the Chinese triad led by someone that lives in a cellar and listens to traditional Chinese stories and beats up anyone that isn't authentic. Miike factors include the usual bursts of irrational violence, quirky characters, a customer with vaginal fetishes, a prostitute that gets paid to have sex with someone who is passed out, etc. Humorous and dramatic but quirky.

MPD Psycho  
A TV series based on a bizarre dark manga (are there any other kinds?) made more bizarre with small Miike touches. Personalities shift between people and killers change into other people while a Multiple Personality Disorder policeman and his quirky team investigate. The show includes things like eccentric characters, body parts, and artistic killers that turn people into human flower-pots.

Osaka Tough Guys  
Like a Loony Toon version of Yakuza, this early ridiculous comedy by Miike features two teenage thugs who are forced into the Yakuza where they encounter clown outfits, a female monster with huge lips in love with the Yakuza boss, men who wear panties to sell them as fake celebrity panties, a killer karaoke performance and other crazy, silly but entertaining scenes.

Shinjuku Triad Society  
An early, tamer Miike Yakuza movie about the usual gang wars, extreme violence, illegal organ and drug dealings, and an extreme cop trying to get his brother out of the underworld. Miike factors include eye-gouging, male sodomy as means of interrogation, a nymphomaniac, a criminal that flashes the opposition, homosexuality, and the usual extreme violence.

Three... Extremes  
Another triptych of Asian horror, the first of which is directed Miike. Miike shows yet another side of him and delivers a subtle, slow, nightmarish dark drama about a girl who used to perform with her sister in a freaky magicians show and was jealous of his attention to her sister. Haunted by ghosts, bad dreams and a tragic violent memory, she weaves in and out of surreal visions to confront her past. The second short movie is a severely cut version of Dumplings, a horror story about a woman who performs illegal abortions and stuffs the fetuses in dumplings, claiming they make women younger. One woman cannot resist this chance to regain her youth and sinks to new lows with a disturbing ending. The third is an almost surreal 'home invasion' flick where a crazed movie extra ties up a rich movie-maker and starts chopping off his wife's fingers in an attempt to corrupt the spoiled director. I'm not a big fan of anthologies, but this one ranks as one of the best.

Yakuza Apocalypse  
Miike is back to Gozu territory here, kinda, after a relatively long stint with mainstream movies. It's a vampire-Yakuza action-fighting flick, except that it consistently defies all expectations by injecting more and more absurd elements of fantasy that make no sense. This is the kind of movie where a vampire-Yakuza stops to fry an egg on his own hand in the middle of a fight, where creatures from different movies like a Kappa join the gang for no reason whatsoever, and where one woman starts hearing drops of water in her head, the ultimate baddie is a person in a furry frog costume, and a band-aid becomes important in an apocalyptic way. There's no real plot to speak of, as it seems to be making itself up as it goes along, with escalating battles and chaos, as vampire-Yakuza take over while odd creatures step in to fight them. For people that just want to be distracted, this may work for them, for the rest of us that need some kind of cohesive plot or structure, forget about it.

Yatterman  
Another crazy children's movie from Miike, only this one has too much adult humor for children. Let's say this is a fantasy superhero flick for immature teenagers. The hero is made up of a male and female Yatterman who regularly fight some grossly incompetent super-thieves with the help of a wide variety of crazy super-weapons and robots. The sexy girl, rat-face and pig-nose thieves serve a thief-god who keeps punishing them with things like nuclear explosions, as they try to collect the pieces of a skull that is making things like Tuesday or Mount Fiji disappear and which will eventually do something confusing with time. This is just the tip of the iceberg, Miike seemingly cramming several stories into one movie and inventing a new imaginative special effect every 20 seconds, and somehow during all the endless hyperkinetic battle scenes, he finds time for robot sex, boob missiles, and copping a feel, or love triangles and parent-daughter drama. This one dives down beyond so many levels of idiotic wackiness of entertainment, it pulls you down with it and you don't really mind.

Worthless

City of Lost Souls  
A chaotic storyline with uninteresting multi-ethnic criminals featuring the Yakuza, some Chinese, some Brazilians, a CGI/Matrix style rooster fight, a criminal showdown a la Tarantino, some scatological humor and stylish but chaotic comic-book events. This one seems to be a free-flight outing for Miike with too many random events and darkly humorous action pieces to serve as anything but a mildly entertaining distraction.

Dead or Alive 2  
Eschewing repetition and predictability as usual, Miike resurrects some characters from the first DOA in different roles and replaces most of the Yakuza violence and depravity with surrealism, twisted humor and childhood nostalgia. Friends grow apart but meet again when they are both hired to assassinate the same man. They revisit their childhood, reminisce and decide to kill people together and donate the money to save children. While they act in an obscene children's play, the triads and Yakuza chop each other up and throw in a little necrophilia for good measure. Surreal imagery such as wings, flying feathers, smoking dummies and huge penises are thrown in for crude symbolism or demented humor. A mess.

Happiness of the Katakuris, The  
A black comedy musical featuring a family trying to maintain a country inn in the hopes that a new future highway will bring big business. But their scattered guests all seem to die in strange ways and burying this bad luck only seems to make things worse. A sumo wrestler dies while having sex with a tiny girl and the family breaks out in song and dance a la Dancer in the Dark, some bizarre sequences are shown in claymation, and the movie keeps switching between twisted tributes to The Sound of Music and Living Dead movies.

Lesson of the Evil  
Miike directed a few good movies with strong violence lately, but this is not one of them. Like Van Sant's Elephant or Uwe Boll's Rampage, this offers a relentless and endless sequence of murder and violence in computer-game fashion, and, as with Battle Royale, it is directed against high-schoolers. The first half of the movie is a mess, hopping from one school occurrence to another, from an evil kid who goes after his parents naked and holding a knife, to mysterious deaths by fire, various teachers' attempts at handling cheating, sexual exploitation between teachers and students of various genders, bullying, and so on. All of which involve a charming teacher whom most of the students love. But then the mask comes off, there's strange symbolic killing of ravens, brutal murders, one involving a rival serial killer, and some blackmail and manipulative games at school get out of hand, leading to cover-up murders, until the last resort, which turns out to be a killing spree. Miike manages to make the violence relentless, cold, vicious and evil as it is backed by calculated charm that is only meant to disorient and manipulate. But it is all rather senseless and interminable, leaving you indifferent. Watch Miike's much better 'Scars of the Sun' or 'Thirteen Assassins' instead.

Ninja Kids!!!  
Another colorful and over-the-top wacky children's movie by Miike with questionable content, this time too incoherent, childish and silly to appeal to adults. It's based on a manga, and the costumes in this movie will amaze to no end, including a clown hairdresser, an evil ninja with a head too big to balance, lots of freakish cartoonishly misshapen facial features, a man's hairdo in the shape of an elephant, and an old woman with big cheeks who turns into a young one. The 'story' is like a demented ninja version of Harry Potter, featuring a cute bespectacled kid off to prove himself in ninja school. Ninja tricks include tearing into reality as if it were a paper background, digging instant trap-holes, brushing spikes off the path with a broom, slipping on dog-poo while avoiding ninja stars, a kid with rivers of snot and a tough head, and lots more. It sounds entertaining, but the chaotic lowbrow silliness and slapstick gets tiring.

Silver - Shirubaa  
A female karate expert is sent undercover by a secret organization into a female wrestling group in order to spy on a Dominatrix who has a Yakuza boss as her slave (amongst other customers). Another super fighter who throws darts is after the female fighter and they meet for a duel. No you're right, that did not make any sense. Involves some s&m scenes, whipping, and a Miike scene involving urine, but for the most part this is darkly lit, uninvolving and surprisingly cheaply exploitative for Miike.

Sukiyaki Western Django  
Miike hops on the Tarantino bandwagon and makes a colorful, self-conscious Japanese Western that is a spoof on Italian Spaghetti Westerns (mostly copying scenes from Sergio Leone) which in turn are fans of American Westerns and remakes of old Japanese movies. This spaghetti of genres is played with in the movie using a confusing salad of Western and Japanese costumes/set designs, and it has Japanese people speaking horrible English pretending to be in the wild west while living by the samurai code. The cinematography uses colors that bleed into your irises, the ultra-violent action is stylish and entertaining, there are many weird characters, the movie is highly eccentric and is asking to gain a cult status. But it's all unwatchable due to several flaws: The English is difficult to understand at best, and unintelligible at worst, the complicated plot is Miike at his chaotic, whimsical worst, the over-the-top actors have TOO much fun with this and it feels like Japanese children playing cowboys and Indians, and the humor and style is too self-conscious and posing to be funny.

Visitor Q  
A father has incest with his prostitute daughter then tries his hand at necrophilia, the mother is a heroin addict and whore, the son beats up his mother regularly and in turn gets bullied by his peers. Along comes mysterious visitor Q to bring back this dysfunctional family together by hitting the father on the head and teaching the mother how to lactate. If you think this sounds demented, silly and sick, then you're underestimating this movie.




2000- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents