|Japanese Film Poster.|
Takashi Miike, branded the enfant terrible of Japanese cinema, first came to international prominence with Audition (1999). A film about a middle-aged widowers search for a young, beautiful, traditional Japanese bride starts at a sedate pace but ends as a horrifying nightmare of sadistic depravity. When I initially saw this at the RBC Film Theatre it was the first time I had witnessed people actually walking out of the cinema during a screening! His 2001 film Ichi the Killer is possibly the most deliriously violent film ever made. Adapted from a manga of the same name the BBFC refused to allow release of the uncut film in the UK citing its extreme levels of sexual violence towards women but that rather misses the point. As Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp stated in in their guide to New Japanese Film “The film is a strongly critical examination of the relationship between violent images and the spectator, as well as being an excellent character piece” Miike started his career on Japanese TV and then as part of Japan’s V-Cinema (films made for direct-to-video) that have less stringent censorship and allow directors more creative freedom.
This genre-busting director has tackled, drama, comedy, gut-churning horror, Yakuza action movies, musicals and a spaghetti western, amongst others. He has never been afraid to portray taboo busting content including bizarre sex or very extreme violence. Miike can be truly described as a cult director.
His latest main stream UK release is a period drama, 13 Assassins (2010), which is a remake of the 1963 film of the same name by Kudo Eiichi. Sticking closely to the original and set in 1844 near the end of the Edo period, it’s a traditional story of a group of Samurai and Ronin assembled by the war weary veteran Shinzaemon Shimada, the former Shoguns Samurai, into a potent band of assassins to eliminate the evil and politically dangerous Lord Naritsugu the current Shoguns younger brother. The film represents the final days of the Samurai who battle against corrupt authorities and is similar in tone to Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai (1954). Four typical Miikesque moments are, Naritsugu’s mutilated plaything, kicking the head of his loyal general Hanbei after it was severed during sword play, a boy urinating in the street and a herd of blazing cattle running amok during the 45 minute battle sequence at the conclusion of the movie.
This is action driven Japanese cinema at its most powerful, the shear energy of this fine samurai movie is a real cinematic treat. This type of movie does not come our way very often so well done the RBC Film Theatre for yet again programming such a marvellously enjoyable film.