Takashi Miike’s ‘First Love’ and his ultraviolent movie past
Ichi the KillerThere are some directors that will always be on the lips of others, such as Quentin Tarantino or Alfred Hitchcock. Such notoriety does not come from a lot of international directors, at least to American audiences, with the historic win of Parasite and director Bong Joon-ho, people are starting to look for new directors to follow from the wider world.
This brings us to Takashi Miike, a prolific director from Japan known for his genre-blending and his gorier tendencies. He has over 100 films to his name so there’s plenty to choose from. If you like the gore that Tarantino brings to his films, then Miike will be a director to be interested in. Recently, his film First Love scored a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
If you’re looking for a new director to follow, then here’s why you should watch First Love along with some of the other favorite Takashi Miike films.
First Love (2019)
First Love follows a young couple (Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi) who innocently get mixed up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night in Tokyo. It’s a strange blend of comedy, romance, and violence that will leave you laughing while also cringing away from the blood. (First Love gets bloody.)
Justin Chang of the L.A. Times wrote on the film, “It’s a joyous piece of filmmaking, a demented, multitasking little scherzo from a director who cranks out four new features a year on average and who never seems more relaxed than when he’s in an absolute frenzy.”
Ichi the Killer (2001)
Ichi the Killer was the film that brought Miike to overseas notice and reputation for his “Asian Extreme” violence. The manga from which the film is based on is also pretty violent, following an exceptional killer who cries as he dismembers his victims.
Then Ichi (Nao Omori) meets his soulmate in the form of masochist Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), which leads the two to a very bloody showdown. It’s somewhat infamous in certain circles of film nerds because Ichi the Killer has either been censored or banned in most countries.
It can be a hard watch for some people, especially those who don’t like blood. This Miike’s best-known work so if you can handle it, then be sure to check it out.
The Happiness of the Katakuris (2002)
Miike is a filmmaker that refuses to be pigeon-holed. No film quite defies expectations of a Miike film than The Happiness of the Katakuris. This is a very loose adaptation of Kim Jee-won (I Saw the Devil) film, The Quiet Family. Miike took that film threw in some claymation and musical numbers (yes really) to make a film about family values (yes really).
Boiled down, the story follows a family who is hiding a stash of buried corpses near their mountainside inn. Now make it a musical! It’s a horror-comedy musical that’s actually a pretty life-affirming story.
The Bird People in China (1998)
If you’re looking for a mellower Miike film to dip your toe in, then Bird People may be right up your alley. A young disaffected Japanese businessman (Masahiro Motoki) takes an unwanted trip into rural China to look for a jade mine with a yakuza debt collector (Renji Ishibashi) in tow.
While the duo never finds the mine, they do find a hidden remote village where the inhabitants are rumored to fly. Bird People shows Miike’s deftness as a director as he carefully leads the audience into a literal flight of fancy and redemption story as well.
Audition is Miike’s best-known film to international audiences. If you have a friend who is obsessed with horror movies, then they’ve probably mentioned the film once or twice. The film follows a widower (Ryo Ishibashi) who stages a phony audition in order to meet women to find a new wife. Things get horrific when he meets Asami (Eihi Shiina) and the film goes from domestic drama to outright horror.
Audition is pretty infamous in how graphic and bloody it can get amongst horror fans. The final torture sequence especially is. . .wild. Unsurprisingly, horror director Eli Roth says that Audition influenced him and his work. Even so, Audition is considered by many to be one of the best horror movies ever made. But it is not for the faint of heart or stomach.