Happy Birthday to Takashi Miike,
A modern-day master of Japanese cinema.
Today, 24th August 1960 – marks the birthday of one of Japans grand masters, Takashi Miike. A director that has not only mastered the horror genre, but all aspects of genre. Today we look at the many faces of Takashi as he continues to shock, overwhelm and delight his fans of Japanese cinema in so many ways.
Takashi was born in Yao, which is a small town on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan. His main interests as a youngster was racing motorbikes professionally. That changed at the age of 18 when he went to Yokohama school, founded by a renowned director named Shôhei Imamura, and studies film. He was Takashi was nominated to work in television and gained experience in many roles before becoming assistant director. His first break was in ‘90s when he directed his own films on low-budget. His first theatrically distributed film was Shinjuku Triad Society (1995) and from then on he altered V-Cinema with higher ranging budgets on an international scale.
Remembering those wonderful Splatter Punk novels back in the ‘80s with such glorious titles, such as Stake, Night Show, The Scream, The Light at the end, and many more as a teenager, I would annihilate and consume those novels, as if a junkie, waiting for his next fix.
The same sensations literally flooded me when I discovered Takashi’s, Dead or Alive. A wonderful Yakuza flick that begins with such ferocity in montage cuts. The viewer literally feels annihilated after the first few minutes or so. The film continues into a steady moving Yakuza crime drama with only an ending Takashi could provide.
Feeling a sudden tremble of guilt when watching Dead or Alive for the first time, a peculiar awareness took hold once again, the horror endorphins reignited as Takashi’s vision engulfed me and I concluded at that point that crime genre could pass as horror.
I walked away from Dead or Alive thinking: “Maybe I’m some wuss, who is just used to the usual run-of-the-mill cinema” which was back in the day when the J-horror scene began – Asian cinema, being relativity new to me at this point in my life.
Horror had, and perhaps always will back in those days given me a sense of vitality. That exhilaration of being alive and experiencing those blood-curdling moments that sends chills down your spine and more importantly feeling childlike in the process.
Shortly after, I discovered Shinjuku Triad Society. which also used the familiar formula of the Yakuza cop genre themes, but reconstructing the recipes into something new. Shinjuku Triad Society continued the same deliverance as Dead or Alive.
I felt that this style provoked a need to explore deeper, so I delved more into Takashi’s work. I turned to his masterpiece, Ichi the Killer. For me, Ichi portrayed a higher level of film making – whereas the previous films I’ve seen were the equivalent to a mild codeine-like substance – Ichi, being the true morphine-based substance to the cannon of his work. The face of Takashi had become a Divine vision. A Punk Rock virtuosity a certain antiestablishment against the mainstream. A director above the rest. Eli Roth has quoted numerous times on how Takashi’s work is the equivalent of Punk Rock – hence Takashi’s brief appearance in Hostel – where even though Takashi cannot speak a word of English, agreed to cameo in Hostel.
Exploring Takashi’s magical, mystery freak-show – a wonderful world of psycho females, insane gangsters, monsters, a zombie musical and even a remake of Kinji Fukasaki’s, Graveyard of Honour – which certainly excelled the original. it was plain to see Takashi is a master of all genres, including science fiction – Gods Puzzle and Body Horror – Gozu, which plays out like a slow-moving drama added with bizzaro fiction overtones, and a finale that would have any David Cronenberg fan in suspense, and a must mention is the amazing J-horror entry in the form of One Missed Call.
Takashi’s style has a familiar rawness and grind residing in the Pinky violence movies, that flooded the Japanese film industry from the ‘60s onwards – with exotic titles such as Go Go Second Time a Virgin, Sex and Fury, Prisoner Scorpio 902, and the many Kinji Fukasaku, director of Battle Royale, Yakuza crime drama epics. Most notably the Yakuza Papers – battles without honour and humanity. In fact, this series of films inspired William Friedkin’s: French Connection, giving birth to a new type of Hollywood crime film in the seventies.
If punk rock films with overts of excessive violence, sex, gore and added dashes of bizzaro is your flavour, I would highly recommend any of the above.
It would be absolute heresy not mention Audition as the ultimate fatal attraction thriller. Audition as it stands is a masterpiece and one of his best thrillers, if not best, and also, Imprint, produced by Mick Garris – which was actually banned from the air. Any of the above films are highly recommended.
In conclusion, it is impossible to round off the many faces of Takashi Miiki or categorize him in one label. His refusal and true Will summarizes as to why he’s never worked in the Hollywood system, and shows his nature to never surrender to the mainstream. Just when you think surrender is inevitable, Takashi, the grand master of Japanese cinema always delivers a true if not bizarre journey through Japanese culture.