Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Fri Aug 12, 2005 6:18 pm

The films of Kitano, Tsukamoto & Miike.

The three best known of the cult film directors working in Japan today. Each has their own group of devotees but none are likely to ever make anything more than a dent amongst the mainstream audience, Kitano by choice, Tsukamoto and Miike because their style has limited appeal.

Takeshi Kitano, film director, actor, aka Beat Takeshi, comedian, game show host, film director. A genuine workaholic, his films have ventured from cult through commercial to art-house and back again, he has a distinctive style, visual and aural rhythm play a very important part in his films and the symbolism of the sea and angels are concurrent along with his own paintings. Im sure his best is yet to come.

Shinya Tsukamoto, a totally unique director, writer, actor. From his first hit Tetsuo he has pushed the boundaries in terms of mutations of man and machine in a similar way to some of Cronenbergs work. Highly visual and franticly edited, his films are usually quite short at around the 70 minute mark but are packed with a tremendous amount of energy and pace, you can see elements of his editing style in films like Darren Aronofskys Pi and the Japanese film Electric Dragon 80,000V.

Takashi Miike, 14 years as a director and 65 movies and series in the bag, the figures are staggering but the quality of his work varies so much and the majority of his films can become tediously repetitive. He appears to be a jobbing director, need a film done, need it fast, give it to Miike and he hasnt done anything that is his own, not yet at least. Amongst all the Yakuza flicks and Manga adaptations there are sparks of a good imaginative director with a quirky sense of humour but its likely that hell stay as he is, churning them out by the dozen with just the odd spark of distinction.

Please feel free to add your own comments, reviews and criticisms to this thread.



Kikujiro - 1999

Zatoichi - 2003


Tetsuo the Ironman - 1988

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer 1992

Hiruko the Goblin - 1990

Vital - 2004


Happiness of the Katakuris - 2001 comments by wpqx

Box - Three Extremes - 2004 comments by wpqx

Ley Lines - 1999 comments by wpqx

Audition - 1999 comments by wpqx

Izo - 2004 comments by wpqx

The Bird People in China - 1998

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A - 2005 Comments by A.

Full Metal Yakuza - 1997 comments by wpqx

Still to come list.

For other sections of Japanese Journals, please use the links


2. Kurosawa, Ozu & Mizoguchi - The Classics

3. Kitano, Tsukamoto & Miike - The Modern Cult Directors

4. Anime

5. Horror & Ghost Stories

6. Jidaigeki (Chambara)

Cheers Trev

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Sat Aug 13, 2005 3:34 pm

Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

There are some directors that can make anything make sense, and others that just baffle you. Miike's world is not self explanatory, you are constantly aware that this is a deliberately strange atmosphere. Katakuris takes this to a further extreme than Ichi the Killer. In this world people randomly bust into song, even more randomly then most musicals, and in mid-scene claymation takes over, with Miike occasionally substituting live action with it.

The basic story is of a family running a small motel that has one problem, everyone who stays there winds up dying. So like all screwball comedies, it is founded upon a lie upon a lie. Rather than report the dead, they decide to bury him. As the next corpse(s) mount the same treatment is handed out. Even when they decide to relocate to the country, their bad luck seems to follow them.

Well as usual I get bored with plot, and the plot is somewhat secondary here. Some of the characters that inhabit the film are stranger than the next. From the obese man and his schoolgirl wife/girlfriend, to the man in the "navy" who knows where these guys come from. The acting is stylized, so it's hard to say if they're bad or just trying to be over the top. This debate is most prevelant with Naomi Nishida. She borders on irritating quite often, and when she meets her love (the deshevled Navy conman Kiyoshiro) she goes way over the top.

This may not be for all people, and I can't necessarily say the film is great, but it is interesting. Sometimes though that's all you want from a film, for it to be something different. Miike is a master at giving something different, and this fits the bill.

btw sorry for the lousy write up, just can't really put this into words

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Sat Aug 13, 2005 3:35 pm

last topic has been deleted, per your request

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:51 am

Just a few comments on "The Happiness of the Katakuris", it is an adaptation of the Korean film "The Quiet Family - 1998" but has been imaginatively enhanced with scenes that suddenly switch from live action to claymation and some really cheesy songs. The acting is hammy to the extreme, campy at times but this is true of the original as well it's just exagerated even more in "HOTK".

This is one of the better, certainly more entertaining Miike films. the storyline is pretty much the same as "The Quiet Family" but whereas the original made use of the DMZ between North and South Korea as a key point to the story "HOTK" has obviously had to find a different focus.

One of the cheesiest Japanese films I've ever seen and a cult favourite.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:14 pm

Tetsuo (1988 ) Tetsuo the Ironman

Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring Tomorowo Taguchi, Shinya Tsukamoto

An amazingly explosive debut feature, influenced by the likes of Bunuel/Dali (Un Chien Andalou), David Lynch (Eraserhead), David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome etc) and Jan Svankmajer stop motion animation. Has influenced Darren Aronofsky (Pi) and dozens of other films, pop promos etc including his former mentor Sogo Ishiis Electric Dragon 80000V.

The story as such, a metal fetishist gets run over by a car, the driver and his girlfriend dump his near dead body and have sex. A few days later the driver starts mutating, jagged lumps of metal start appearing all over and protruding from his body, his penis turns into a large drill bit and gradually his whole body disappears under wires, pipes and assorted metal fragments. The fetishist returns, somehow he has managed to invade the drivers body and caused the transmutation, they battle it out until they are joined as one and decide to use their combined power to destroy the world.

Sounds daft? Yes but this strikingly bold, black and white staccato edited energy explosion is an amazingly surreal piece of film. Tsukamoto uses the transformations/mutations as a sexual expression as he sees each sexual encounter as something that transforms the participants. This type of symbolism is a common feature of all his films and are usually male/female although the last encounter in Tetsuo is between the two males ending in a combined mutation.

You want something truly different, give Tetsuo the Ironman a try, whether you like it or loathe it, youll never forget it.

Cheers Trev

BBFC rated 18

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:24 am

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992)

Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring Tomorowo Taguchi, Shinya Tsukamoto

Not so much a sequel but like Evil Dead 2, more a bigger budget rewrite/remake of the original. It expands by developing backgrounds and reasoning for the central characters from Tetsuo the Ironman. A history is built between the original man and the fetishist giving them backgrounds and family. At times the film comes across as a pop promo especially the scenes involving a skinhead gang, all-macho weight lifting and sweaty skin. The plot is revolved around the kidnapping and killing of the mans son, this instigates a trail that leads to the final confrontation.

A big difference is the use of a muted and drained colour palette, I must admit I preferred the black and white of the original and the far more fetishistic overview. It takes a while before we get into the Svankmajer style stop motion animation which thankfully, is retained from the previous film only then does it feel that you're watching a Tetsuo film.

Whereas the original had a highly sexual basis to its nature, the remake aims at the way man made structures are displacing nature. Apart from Tetsuo's first transition upon seeing his mother accidentally shot by his father during a sexual act, the broader look at the encroachment of concrete and metal on society leads to a finale of destruction within and of the concrete jungle.

Overall then a bold attempt at building on the original and one that many seem to prefer, given the choice though, Ill stick with the original, just the same as with the Evil Dead.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 18

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Thu Aug 18, 2005 10:18 pm

Three Extremes (2004) - Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan, Park Chan-Wook

Well although only one story was directed by Miike, this film certainly has cult status. In fact all films in the horror genre have a cult status. This is one of the most successful (creatively) omnibus films I have seen. The stories remain interesting, and although Fruit Chan's "Dumplings" doesn't quite measure up, the beginning and end of this film more than makes up for it.

Miike gets the ball rolling, and like his other films, it is completely different. Say what you will about him, he's certainly versatile. His is without a doubt the creepiest of the stories, because nothing creeps me out more than little children, except maybe clowns, but that's another story. Miike shoots his story almost as a silent film. The dialogue is extremely sparse, and the first ten minutes of it are completely silent. He manages to shift times effectively, allowing just enough foreshadowing, and the proper backstory to come through. It begins in the future, goes to the present, winds up in the past, and finally gets back to the beginning again. It is all done with a highly hypnotic power as all well crafted films with a deliberate pace should be.

Chan's story I've mentioned as being the weakest link, which might not mean it's bad. It has Christopher Doyle as a DP, so how bad could it be? It is a little unsettling at parts, the abortion will attest to that, and well the dumpings themselves are their own source of disgust. I do however believe that the film has no general horror appeal. It is more of a blood bath than anything creepy, or even frightening.

Wook's film is the golden egg of the bunch. Like a brilliantly exectuted Tales From the Crypt story, what Miike's film lacks in dialogue, this more than makes up for it. It is almost all talking, and has lots of those morality plays. It is the most thought provoking of the bunch, and gets to be somewhat confusing, as they all do in their little ways. I was enthralled with this, and Wook sets it up brilliantly. Allowing more to be revealled as time progresses. I loved how it started as a tale of a vampire, but we saw through a backwards tracking shot that it was a movie set, but how that same opening shot got replayed near the end. This is the best of the bunch, and sadly I've still not seen Old Boy, but if this what Wook's work is like, then I most certainly am looking forward to it (even more than normal).

Can't say the film is perfect, but Miike and and Wook are absolutely phenomenal for this outing.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Thu Aug 18, 2005 11:03 pm

We certainly have a difference of opinion on the different parts of "Three Extremes". I thought Fruit Chan's "Dumplings" was the best part (mind you I have seen the full feature length version) then Miikes "Box" which surprised me with its quality and I felt Chan-wook Park's segment "Cut" was the weakest simply because it became tangled up in itself.

Great to see a difference of opinion.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Sat Aug 27, 2005 1:30 am

Ley Lines (1999) - Takashi Miike

Well another Miike film is in the books. This was the last installment in his Black Society Trilgoy, which I was completely unaware of. This is also one of the films (along with Audition) that helped to break Miike to a Western audience. Why you may ask, because Western audiences love crime. This film is all about the underworld and reckless youths. There are no clear victims here, because even the villians get their own medicine dished back to them. Likewise there aren't really any heroes here, everyone is flawed, and that's just what this story needs.

Unfortunately because of the credits being in Japanese, and the online source about the film has no cast listed, I can't really tell you who's in it, or who played who. I also can't find the name of the cinematographer. This last point is more important to me. This film was shot wonderfully well. It embraces tracking shots throughout, following the characters as if you were trying to catch up to them, or following them down a seedy back alley.

To be expected from Miike the film is somewhat graphic, lots of violence. There is also nudity, and because of certain Japanese censorship rules, genitals are blocked out. Rather than make them pixilated as is usually the practice, Miike makes them appear electric, animating lighting over them, certainly gives it a new spin. Sex is of course going to come up here, because one of the main characters just happens to be a Chinese prostitute. She is the prime example of a victim/victimizer. She robs our trio of actors, but then returns to her apartment to be beaten by her pimp/boyfriend. Throughout the film she is beaten, but she manages to find some strength in the group from the country. Reluctantly she fits in.

The band of misfits of course attempts to make their own way in the underworld, selling glue at first. Then of course comes the "big score" a bank robbery where they're willing to shoot if necessary. I think our main character (who's name escapes me) is actually under the notion of death as romantic. Of course when he comes face to face with blood he realizes how wrong he was. It is this notion of the glamour of crime that attracts them. Once they have blood on their hands though, things seem different. Granted this is in no ways a morality play, and there is not a lot of contemplation here. You can only really see the reaction in the face of the actors that realization that "I just took someone's life with this trigger". Same can be said of our prostitute when she finally has a gun in her hand. There is that momentary shock, and then I think she takes to it, almost unleashing her hatred on the world, and in particular men. Murder is her retribution, with a gun it doesn't matter if a guy is stronger or bigger than her, she won't be abused.

I can't say the film is particularly strong. It is somewhat conventional in Miike's world. I'd like to see the other films in the trilogy to see how they compare, but ignorant as I am I don't even know what the other two films are. The cinematography alone though makes this film stand out, and in that regard it looks better than probably any Miike film. So if camera movement works for you, then you may just love this film. More Miike to come, so I'm unofficially become the FF authority on him.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Sat Aug 27, 2005 9:51 am

It's been a while since I've seen Ley Lines but I'll add my comments in this box once I've rewatched it.

Nihon kuroshakai (1999) Ley Lines

Okay just a few notes in addition to wpqx's concise comments, as noted this is the third in the Black society trilogy the connection being they all feature characters who are "Kuro Shakai", that is Chinese or part Chinese living in Japan. At the start we see the two brothers who are Kuro Shakai as little boys being told by Japanese children to go back to China. The films are about outsiders, not just from the viewpoint of the law but from the viewpoint of society.

The other films in the trilogy are Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog and will be commented on at some future date.

A few of the cast are Miike regulars, in particular Tomorowo Taguchi, Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi, each has appeared in many of his films including the Dead or Alive trilogy. The cinematographer ( as wpqx noted "This film was shot wonderfully well") is Naosuke Imaizumi, amongst his other credits are Miike's "The City of Last Souls" and "Shinjuku Triad Society".

The brothers appear to have some sort of psychic connection at times of grave danger, there's a time where the eldest (and main protagonist) Ryuichi gets badly beaten, (his own fault) but somehow his brother seems to hear him though they're nowhere near each other and is able to find and help him. This link is made again towards the end of the film but this time in reverse.

Another thing that pops up in this film and a few others, not just Miike's is the connection between Japan and Brazil, I have no idea where it stems from but there is a definite affinity between the two nations, might be something worth looking into.

I'd say apart from the cinematography, this is pretty standard Miike fare, gangsters, pimps, prostitutes, crime and retribution although not usually by the hand of the law and a slightly introspective look at modern Japanese society.

Cheers Trev.


Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests