Takashi Miike on DVD

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zombeaner
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2006 2:24 pm

#101 Post by zombeaner » Sun Mar 09, 2008 11:05 pm

Sanjuro wrote:Is this really hard to understand without subtitles? I've seen lots of sites mention that English subs are absolutely essential to understand it. I understood everyone pretty much perfectly, but then I've lived here for a decade so have an advantage.

The problem is I found a lot of the humour came from the outrageous western cliches that came from the mouths of each of the characters unexpectedly and can't help but feel something's lost watching with subtitles. Of course, it's all lost if most people can't understand a word of it so subs are a good idea I suppose. Or perhaps you could listen to some Shonen Knife before you go watch it.
I did get lost a few times. but overall it was okay. Obviously, some actors were easier to understand than others. I'd definitely like to watch it again with subs

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colinr0380
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#102 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:08 am

zombeaner wrote:I'm watching Sukiyaki Western Django as I'm typing and although I will buy an R1 version for English subs and extras, I find it hard to believe that it will come anywhere near this Geneon R2 disc for image quality or sound. The DTS mix on this disc is AMAZING, and the image looks awesome, I highly recommend.
DVD Beaver review of the Geneon disc.

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Sanjuro
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:37 am
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#103 Post by Sanjuro » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:07 am

Coming to DVD May 30th. Miike Takashi's no doubt wacky stage adaptation of Zatoichi starring Aikawa Sho. Sadly no English subs, but surely a must for the Miike collectors out there. Link

I had tickets for this, but couldn't make it that day. :(

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blindside8zao
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#104 Post by blindside8zao » Sun Jun 08, 2008 9:31 pm

Demon Pond is sitting on the New Releases shelf of my Blockbuster. Has anyone chanced it, yet?

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colinr0380
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#105 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:39 am

blindside8zao wrote:Demon Pond is sitting on the New Releases shelf of my Blockbuster. Has anyone chanced it, yet?
Sorry, I've picked it up but it is still in my kevyip pile at the moment. :oops: , but here's a review from DVD Talk.

yoshimori
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#106 Post by yoshimori » Tue Aug 26, 2008 2:51 am

Bird People of China blu-ray, 10.28

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Sanjuro
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#107 Post by Sanjuro » Tue Aug 26, 2008 3:53 am

yoshimori wrote:Bird People of China blu-ray, 10.28
Excellent! My first Takashi Miike movie. I recall going to see this because it featured the same cinematographer as Hana-Bi. A couple of years later when I went in search of more Miike I was most surprised when the clerk at Tsutaya directed me to the "Psycho-Splatter" section and recommended Audition.

yoshimori
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#108 Post by yoshimori » Tue Aug 26, 2008 4:43 am

Sanjuro wrote:A couple of years later when I went in search of more Miike I was most surprised when the clerk at Tsutaya directed me to the "Psycho-Splatter" section and recommended Audition.
That's what I call a full-service Tsutaya! Did it also have a "J-pop idol plays Nietzschean serial killer" section?

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Sanjuro
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#109 Post by Sanjuro » Tue Aug 26, 2008 7:35 pm

I wouldn't be surprised. Honestly there are so many genres nowadays it's almost impossible to find anything. Horror - Teen horror - Splatter - Thriller - Psycho thriller - suspense, gangster - hard boiled gangster - yankee gangster - action - car action - kung fu action - science fiction... Then the shelves dedicated to different actors or directors and sections arbitrarily labeled 'mini-theatre', 'classic' or 'long-seller'. And that's just the Japanese films...

If you're not looking for anything in particular it actually makes browsing quite exciting I suppose. It's a lot of fun to discover random movies and rent them on a whim. Something online rental services haven't quite perfected yet.

Of course, if you are looking for Miike Takashi movies it'll take all day, I suggest asking a member of staff (persevere as only the manager seems to be able to use the 'search by director' function properly).

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Sloper
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

#110 Post by Sloper » Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:17 pm

Oddly enough considering the above discussion, I saw this film without knowing anything about it except its title and the fact that it had an '18' certificate. I hadn't seen the poster (which really ought to be subtler). I didn't even know it was Japanese.

It was a friend's birthday and we'd intended to see something like Enemy at the Gates (I guess this was 2001/2), but when we got to the cinema the choice was between Miss Congeniality and a film we knew nothing about called Audition. We didn't have to think about this for very long, and it seemed an appropriate choice given that my friend had just turned 18.

The three of us sat there, realised it was Japanese, and of course were totally fooled into thinking this would be a sombre drama about a widower's gradual recovery after the death of his wife. In retrospect, right from the start there was something subliminally unsettling about the way the title emerged, in red lettering, from the right hand side of the screen, as though creeping up on you. And we did know it was an '18', but given the way it was panning out the last thing we expected was violence - some sort of arty sex scenes perhaps? We were quite enjoying it. I felt proud of myself for spotting a couple of allusions to Vertigo.

Then there was a shot of the girl kneeling in her dark flat, listening to the phone ring. A little odd, but it could just mean that she's lonely. I idly wondered what it would be like if a film like this were to turn into a gruesome horror film, but didn't in the least expect this to actually happen.

Then, later on, the shot of the girl in her flat was repeated,
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only this time a creature in a sack rolled across the floor with a growl.

My friends and I are considerate cinema-goers, but I'm pretty sure we all said 'What the fuck?' more or less in unison. Then there was
SpoilerShow
the tongue. The guy at the piano. And the climactic cheese wire scene. You can imagine the impact the 'it was all a dream' scene had on us, given how little we had been expecting the film to go in this direction.
I had never been so horrified, so viscerally scared, by a film, but the odd thing was that throughout much of its more horrific content my friends and I were laughing - don't get me wrong, it was very much nervous, 'I can't believe this is actually happening' laughter, but it was really interesting how the film had this ambiguous effect, precisely because of the way it changes tack halfway through.

The audition in the film is misleading - it's really an audition for something completely different. And yes, obviously the film itself does something similar to the audience, offering them one thing and then changing it into something else. I suppose the parallel is intended to raise questions about the abuse of patriarchal power, the way men manipulate or objectivise women, and the traumatic effect this has on them -
SpoilerShow
Consider the fact that the girl was herself tortured during what were supposed to be dancing lessons, intended presumably to make her more attractive to men.
In conclusion: great title, great film.

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dx23
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#111 Post by dx23 » Sun Sep 28, 2008 1:02 pm

Acording to mcarver's list at DVDTalk, Audition is going out of print again.

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Antoine Doinel
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#112 Post by Antoine Doinel » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:41 am

Caught up with Sukiyaki Western Django tonight (the 90 minute "international cut") and it was pretty dull (I can't imagine sitting through another 30 minutes of this). If you're going to watch this, I'd recommend renting it and then watching the last 45 minutes when Miike dispenses with the boring storyline (lone drifter comes between two clans blah blah blah) and gets more interested in choreographing his gunfighters. There are some very good as well as very funny Miike flourishes that don't make this a complete waste of time (the sequence of one of the clan leaders using the wind to shoot someone from a distance is pretty great; the burst of feathers instead of blood at certain points).

Oh, for anyone who has even a mild dislike of Quentin Tarantino, this film may cause you to have a seizure. Not only do we get Tarantino speaking English in a faux-Japanese accent (yes, it's as horrible as it sounds), we also get QT later in the film in full "old man" makeup where he proceeds to make the worst joke/pun/homage about the film Akira you're likely to hear.

I watched the film with the subs (the Canadian R1 disc I watched had described English only - but it was selective, and only seemed concerned to point out ambient sounds at the beginning of the film, but not the rest of it), but the English spoken by the majority of the actors is actually pretty understandable. It's only the syntax they don't quite get from time to time. And even if you don't quite understand it, the storyline is so rote that you'll be able to find your way.

royalton
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#113 Post by royalton » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:01 am

Man, this takes me back. I immersed myself in Miike and J-cinema in college to the point that I got flat-out sick of it and had to break from it for years; it's only recently that I got back into watching the couple Kiyoshi Kurosawa films I had yet to see, in prep for the release of Tokyo Sonata (I also need to rewatch Charisma and the two "vengeance" films he did with Sho Aikawa).

As to Miike, though, it's hard for me to know where to start again - though I began my "return to the scene of the crime" with Big Bang Love: Juvenile A, which I found beautiful if impenetrable; need to watch it again. I never did see Young Thugs: Nostalgia, Graveyard Of Honour or Bird People, so I need to see those. Does anyone know if The Man In White is worth it? Or The Great Yokai War? Against others' objections Izo is in my Netflix queue as well.

As for more obscure Miike, I would recommend Agitator to people - I don't think it's been released here yet, but I remember someone calling it "Takashi Miike's Godfather" and that seems about right. I also seem to recall a sprinkling of his usual homoeroticism in it. Another one I need to rewatch, clearly.

Would love to hear people's takes on two relatively forgotten films of his - Deadly Outlaw Rekka and Koshonin aka The Negotiator. I thought the latter was a brilliant twisty tale, and the ending of Rekka still baffles me, though after watching so much Miike I shouldn't be perplexed. Also, the fact that Blues Harp has yet to come out in the States (AFAIK) is a travesty - it is possibly my single favorite of his films. I even wrote a terribly obnoxious queer film theory paper on Blues Harp and Gozu.

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Noiretirc
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#114 Post by Noiretirc » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:36 pm

chaddoli wrote:I started with Audition and I think that's a good place. It is, imo, technically his best film. It is also a bit more tame then say, Ichi the Killer or Visitor Q. Audition shows his true talent as a FILMMAKER, not just a shock artist.
Ichi has so much tongue-in-cheek (!) CGI splatter, and it makes me laugh a lot. But the, er, achilles/abdomen work in Audition had me convulsing. Audition scares the shit out of me.

I found Ichi in a bloodbag at....wait for it....WalMart!!! They had no clue, I'm sure of it.

I must have Gozu.

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Fiery Angel
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#115 Post by Fiery Angel » Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:32 pm

Blu-ray of Audition coming from Shout! Factory:
Celebrating 10th Anniversary of Takashi Miike’s modern horror classic, Shout! Factory present AUDITION: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray™ Hi-Def on October 6, 2009. The 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD is also available to own on the same day. Featuring a 1080P high definition transfer from the inter-negative, with a new 5.0 digital soundtack mixed from the original audio elements, AUDITION: 2-DISC COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-ray™ Hi-Def includes 75 minutes of new interviews with the cast and filmmaker along with a new audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan. The collectible Blu-ray™ Hi-Def is priced to own at $29.99; DVD has a $ 24.99 SRP.

deb27

Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#116 Post by deb27 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:13 pm

I recently heard a paper on "Go! Go! Fushimi Jet" and have been trying to track down a copy. The person who gave the paper said she didn't know where I could get a copy, since hers was a bootleg and that it's very difficult to track down. In in my search, it looks like Pandoora may be the same film, only with a different title. Does anyone know if this is true, and if so, where I might find a copy? Many thanks!

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Cold Bishop
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#117 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:34 am

It seems be the name of the boxset that includes both the music videos for Pandoora, as well as The Gundogs, as well as various edits of the latter. I don't think it's an actual film itself.

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knives
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#118 Post by knives » Tue Aug 16, 2016 11:20 pm

I was given a copy of Media Blasters' Bodyguard Kiba 2 and it's in academy. Is that the right aspect ratio?

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colinr0380
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#119 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Aug 17, 2016 1:24 pm

knives wrote:I was given a copy of Media Blasters' Bodyguard Kiba 2 and it's in academy. Is that the right aspect ratio?
I haven't seen the Bodyguard Kiba films to be entirely certain but it looks as if the first film was in 1.85:1 and according to Tom Mes in his Agitator book Parts 2 and 3 were shot back to back, but he doesn't go into the aspect ratios at all for the sequels (he's more interested in warning people away from the sequels!). Other than that I did see an Amazon listing for a now unavailable Italian DVD for Part 2 suggesting that it is also in 1.85:1, but its not much to go on! Sorry I can't be of any more help but this seems like a quite murky area for any definitive answers at the moment.

While I'm in the thread I should mention having watched Yakuza Apocalypse recently, which is utterly crazy but very enjoyable! I particularly liked the group of 'tamed yakuza' being used by the vampire clan for their blood, who are kept locked away in a basement being taught how to turn the other cheek when faced with provocation and to instead go back to their knitting group!

Its not exactly a film I'd recommend to a casual viewer though, unless they're ready for something wildly irreverent and off the wall! (Its Miike in his less serious mode!) But I particularly liked the way that there's an interesting number of parallels that could be drawn between this and some of his earlier works. I thought of Gozu a few times during this (though I think Gozu is better because it feels more Lynchian-nightmarish in its antics) and particularly something like Full Metal Yakuza.

Full Metal Yakuza has a very similar premise in the way it is about a young yakuza in training looking up to his boss (while being teased and bullied by his peers!) and in some ways being singled out and taken under the wing by his boss, who sees the potential there under the relatively meek demeanour. In both films the big boss gets murderered in a coup by his gang with the younger man trying but failing to save him. Then the boss kind of 'merges' with his younger protégé to pass on to the younger man both the masculine power and confidence he once lacked, and also the task of vengeance on the usurping gang members. Really the main difference is in the genere trappings that the similar premises are wrapped in - while Full Metal Yakuza is a kind of Robocop-homage (with the younger yakuza resurrected as a cyborg patchwork of himself and his boss Frankenstein-ed together!), Yakuza Apocalypse is a kind of vampire film, with the boss transferring his powers (and magically transferring across his full body tattoo to his acolyte, who was embarrassingly teased for being unable to have one previously due to his 'sensitive skin'!) across with a death bite on the neck!

I say Yakuza Apocalypse is a vampire film, but one of the funnier aspects of the film is that it has kind of mashed the vampire film together with the zombie one, as our slightly confused hero finds his sudden blood lust hard to control and unfortunately sets off a spreading infection chain reaction of neck biting amongst the local townsfolk! The aspect I particularly liked about this was that we had previously seen the blissfully, parodically happy townsfolk being perfectly happy with the way the boss was running things (in scenes reminiscent a bit of Marlon Brando wandering through the streets, getting asked for advice and offered free goods by awed civilians in the Godfather films!) and seemingly happy enough with their lot in life. But when they get a taste for blood too (and realise that yakuza blood tastes "off"!) all the townsfolk get drunk with power too, sending the previously self-assured thugs running for their lives! There's a fun sense of empowerment there of the locals realising that they don't need to be run by or afraid of the yakuza in their neighbourhood any more!

That only gets emphasised by the gang members who have deposed the boss ending up completely at a loss as to what to do, and finding themselves open to coming under the control of an even worse set of vampires, or at least one with terrible breath! Its at this point that a stereotypical nerd looking for Akihabara in this small town (similar to the way that Bugs Bunny is always taking that "left turn at Albuquerque"?) turns up and proves himself to be a martial arts master, and a similarly dangerously violent person turns up wearing a cute green frog suit onesie and eyes bloodshot at moments of extreme rage! That's when the film gets rather strange....

I'm not entirely sure 'getting strange' means the film is getting better (though there is an amusing Godzilla homage! And a relatively grounded sequence of symmetrically violent attritional punching!) but its certainly unexpected! I think though that this is a film that starts off really strongly in its first half hour or so and then gets ends up with its characters getting overwhelmed by all the arms race escalating bizzareity and face offs! (In that sense it probably bears comparison with Dead or Alive too!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

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knives
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#120 Post by knives » Wed Aug 17, 2016 4:35 pm

Thanks. Apparently the Media Blasters disc for the first one is 1.85 which only deepens the mystery. The films being, apparently, DTV is the only reason I'd assume academy is a legit ratio.

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dwk
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#121 Post by dwk » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:19 pm

Since there is no thread dedicated to Well Go USA, I figure I'll post this here: Well Go USA Acquire New 4K Restoration of Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer

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colinr0380
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#122 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Nov 16, 2018 7:54 pm

I recently watched Miike's 'two part' film Family & Family 2. This is a crime thriller from Miike's most high profile period of 2001 (the same year as Visitor Q and Ichi The Killer) and is a video production that I have been curious about ever since reading the scathing pan of it in Tom Mes's Agitator book! After seeing it I sort of understand his comments, but think that there is some merit to it as well!

Having said that the first film is not that great. It starts off with a woman being threatened and then sexually assaulted by a yakuza thug after being unable to pay back a loan on time, whilst her husband hides in a closet with their son. Then the action moves forward a little and there are two boys seemingly left alone to fend for themselves while the father becomes a drunkard (and is unable to satisfy his wife, who is still traumatised by the assault), and then gets himself pointlessly killed by getting involved in another fight with some thugs whilst coming home drunk from a bar. This then causes one of the boys to track the killers down and challenge them to a fight, saying that even if his father was a useless drunk, he was still his father. He starts to fight and then we get the opening credits and move to the present day, which is apparently thirty years later (though there was not that much to make the previous scenes seem too much of a period). We then get a yakuza boss shot in a parking garage by an assassin with a distinctive Zorro-style scar on his cheek, with the hit also witnessed by a nurse who just happened to be passing.

This sparks off a crisis in a crime syndicate as the killed yakuza boss was the rapist from the past and the hitman was the youngest brother of the family that was being torn apart in those earlier scenes, Takashi. The nurse refuses to identify him and Takashi himself goes into hiding, then the film focuses on the older brothers of the family, one of whom, Hideshi is a district gang leader himself with a high class lifestyle (daughter playing classical music on a piano, a garage full of sports cars, a big yacht for family day trips turned chase scenes, that kind of thing) and gets told to bring his hitman brother to justice or else have his family attacked. Whilst he has the resources to keep his family protected unfortunately the middle brother, the slightly confusingly named Takeshi (though the name similarity seems intentional in light of events later on), and particularly his girlfriend bear the brunt of the organisation's anger. The first film ends with Takeshi's girl getting kidnapped and assaulted whilst the older two brothers drive a tank (!) into the bad guy's compound and blow everything up with slightly cheesy CGI effects. The film then ends on a cliffhanger as Hideshi goes on a quest to track down Takashi before the organisation finds him.

Based on this first film I was prepared to agree with Tom Mes's review, in that this first film is a bit lacklustre and all of the material dealing with the brothers is abandoned after the first third of the film for some action that is both over the top whilst not being that interesting (a deadly combination). Plus everything is scored to a kind of thrash metal beat, which Mes hates in his review, but while it was a bit incongruous it grew on me after a while!

Luckily Family 2 ended up being much better, even if it does start with a replay of the last twelve minutes of the first film which is basically the final action scene with the asssault on the middle brother's girlfriend and the action scene and the couple of scenes following that. One of the more problematic aspects of many of Takashi Miike's films is the use of sexual assault and these films are no different with scenes of sexual assault both beginning and ending Family 1, and then the final scene of the first film repeated in the opening of Family 2 intercut with the opening credits. That sequence ends up being unnecessary to the plot of the second film anyway, as the middle brother and girlfriend become more minor characters in the second film as Hideshi tracks down the youngest brother Takashi (who he finds wearing a dinosaur costume and handing out balloons to children in his form of going straight from the hitman life, which now seems like it anticipates the green frog onesie in Yakuza Apocalypse). Finally plot and characterisation starts taking place rather than just action and gangster posturing. Takashi and the nurse have gone into hiding together but the nurse's duplicitous geisha house running stepmother sells her out to the bad guys looking for her (though has a change of heart and sacrifices herself) and we finally realise why that flashback all the way at the beginning of the first film slightly confusingly showed only two children (the older brothers) with the shocking twist that:
SpoilerShow
the youngest brother Takashi was the son of the yakuza boss who assaulted his mother, and she had transferred her affection from the feckless husband to the attacker and began a relationship with him instead. Which means that Takashi was hired by someone in the organisation who knew about that connection to vengefully right the wrongs visited on his family in the past, but finds that he actually ended up killing his own father

The mother then commits suicide in her nursing home after this revelation, and this triggers the final act of the film by requesting for her ashes to be taken back to the family home where everything started, and where the final firefight takes place.
After that the film goes into a strange Manila set tangent involving Hideshi and Takashi getting their beach side hideout attacked by a helicopter gunship and a squad of soldiers (which bizarrely seems very similar to a sequence in that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz film Knight & Day from almost a decade later! Including the running and leap away from an exploding beachhouse towards the camera!) This is all a powerplay manoeuver by one the female gang leaders to become the head of the family herself, but whilst she is scheming on becoming Number 1 in the organisation we see Takashi and Hideshi managing to fight their way through an army of henchmen. And then the film ends with Hideshi emptying an entire clip into the camera in what seems like an obvious homage to the ending of Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery from 1903!

While it is not really Miike's best film (even of 2001!) I was glad to have watched Family 2. Whilst Tom Mes in his review in the Agitator book says that the film falls apart at the end of Family 1 with the disappearance of the main villain ("Without the villain there is no more purpose to the story, leaving only a string of action scenes pitting Hideshi and Takashi against the aforementioned anonymous gunmen. The plot runs out of steam completely before suddenly taking an entirely different turn, breaking resolutely with what has gone before and settling into a story of Hideshi's own boss trying to kill him."), I actually found that this was where the storyline got much more interesting. Instead of your general gangster threats and kidnapping we instead get into material that is much more related to the history of the brothers and their mother's original assault, as well as their relationship with their significant others (Takashi's relationship with the nurse and her own hard upbringing; Hideshi's wife and daughter and the way that the organisation, as embodied by the other female division leader, is trying to tempt him away from them, eventually unsuccessfully), which makes the title Family less about any kind of gang family but instead something much more literal. Less 'aniki' in the yakuza gang sense and more in the real older brotherly one.

So I found it quite worthwhile as it went on! This really does have its action moments shoehorned in to the climaxes of both parts though, to such an extent that it would probably have been better if they had been dropped altogether, even if it seems that was the entire point of filming in Manilla, in order to get access to that tank in part one and the beach firefight in part two! I also found it interesting to find out that Family was split into two films mini-series like, both under 80 minutes long, presumably to have two titles available for the video market. Family 2, despite being the better film overall, gets even more shortchanged by the first twelve minutes being a replay of the last twelve minutes of the previous film. I am curious as to whether this was something that inspired the treatment of Miike's great yakuza film from a year later Agitator, as that was also split into two parts on video but also had 50 minutes of extra footage added to it for that release, so the two part version runs 200 minutes compared to the theatrical 150 minute version. The theatrical version is the one that Tartan Video put out in the UK and I would really love to see the longer version at some point to compare it with.

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colinr0380
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Re: Takashi Miike on DVD

#123 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:55 pm

Despite being early films by Takashi Miike (from 1993 and 1995) this still seems like the appropriate thread to put this post into. I have recently watched the two Bodyguard Kiba films. They are based on the 1970s manga series (that also was turned into a live action film starring Sonny Chiba in 1976), and involve a Tokyo karate school that has apparently become so successful and dominant in various tournaments that none of the other schools want to fight them anymore, so in order to make some money the owner is hiring out his best members to be bodyguards (and occasionally mercenaries for hire, training up rebel armies in Manila?) for various jobs. Each of the two Takashi Miike films involves a separate job and how they always seem to get complicated by betrayals, often by the female characters. While there is no particular through line between one film and the other (something which appears to have caused a lot of problems for the UK DVD distributor, as they confusingly have mixed up the synopses of each film with the back cover of the second film being paired with the front cover for the first, and vice versa! That has to be in the running for the absolute worst "Worst DVD Cover of All Time" award, just for the unnecessary confusion it caused me at least!), there are a few interesting thematic connections between the films and despite the second film getting a rather negative write up in Tom Mes's Agitator book (he does like the first though), I quite enjoyed both of them! Apparently according to Mes's book there is also a Bodyguard Kiba 3 in which the character of Ryo, who appears in the second film takes over as the protagonist from Kiba, and which was filmed back to back with part 2, but unfortunately that appears to be unreleased in the UK as yet.

I think it is best to approach both of the Bodyguard Kiba films as kind of low key crime dramas. Not shockingly original in content but they tell their rather well worn stories in an interesting way. Cut out the gratuitous rape sequence halfway through the first film and you could have something that could play in the BBC4 foreign language crime drama slot vacated by Inspector Montalbano!

The first film involves an ex-boxer, Junpei, who now works as a low level driver for a yakuza gang based in Okinawa impetuously decide, on being given the task of driving a car full of drug money through a police checkpoint (the boss and his henchmen scarper when they realise that they would be immediately identified), to instead take the money for himself and use it as his passport to leave the area and fulfil his dream of setting up a boxing studio of his own and vicariously live out his thwarted dream of winning a title through training a younger fighter. He tells his girlfriend Yoko to leave the area and he will meet up with her later, but then is captured first by the gang and then in the middle of getting beaten up for being so brazen to do such a thing, the police raid the gang's headquarters and the ex-boxer goes to jail.

Then the film moves five years later and Kiba is given the job of bodyguarding Junpei from jail back to Okinawa to collect his money from where he stashed it, pay them a hefty percentage of it for their services, and get him safely back to Tokyo. Junpei also wants to track down his girlfriend that he lost contact with after that last meeting. This all takes up the first half to two-thirds of the film and actually plays rather low key apart from the early moment of one yakuza member having to sever his finger in penance when Junpei does not arrive with the cash to the exchange with another gang (which feels anticipatory of the much gorier tongue cutting penance in Ichi The Killer), so that one guy really has a reason for wanting revenge! We learn that the yakuza gang that Junpei was part of collapsed when the money was stolen, but five years on they are still waiting for revenge on him.

It really did feel rather gentle in tone for a Takashi Miike film for the longest time, and I was quite enjoying the 48 Hrs-style odd couple pairing of the ex-criminal wanting to go straight and taciturn bodyguard. Then Junpei meets his old girlfriend and suddenly it all goes quite wild, first in the quite explicit reunion sex scene between the pair, but then the film does its third act twist:
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when a female member of the Dojo goes with Yoko to collect some of her things and they get jumped by the gang members. The female karate expert actually beats them all up quite ably, but unfortunately had not reckoned with the girlfriend being in with the gang herself. This female karate expert ends up kidnapped and tied up in the gang's club and threatened with rape, before Yoko shoos the guys away and relates her sad story of having immediately been captured by the gang after Junpei was arrested, brutally beaten and forcibly turned into a junkie before being gang raped and given to the gang boss as his moll. She is wanting revenge on Junpei for having 'abandoned' her but also ends up conflicted, and after Kiba, Junpei and a local policeman who is tagging along break into the club rescue the female karate expert and have the situation explained to them (and they all beat up all of the other gang members in a quite neat scene cutting between the four of them in four different parts of the building having their separate fights!), end up in a tragic showdown on the roof of the club.
While a lot of Takashi Miike's later films feature characters of girlfriends or wives (even children) who end up getting viciously assaulted in the middle of the film to sort of provide an extra push to revenge in the final showdown (mixed with a strange sense of futility in the worst having already happened, in some ways), it has never felt quite so jarring as that flashback scene does here. Maybe it is that this film early on in the director's career is playing a lot more conventionally for the most part so that when this extended scene occurs it feels even more jarring and exploitative. Or maybe it is that I was just enjoying an otherwise standard crime thriller so much that this sequence rather ruins the building buddy dynamics between Kiba and Junpei for something much more upsetting. It was also quite strange to note that while there is a fair bit of explicit nudity in both the sex scene and the rape scene what actually gets the censorship pixellation are the two scenes of drugs being injected, obscuring the detail of the needle going in during the scene of Yoko doing it to herself as well as it being forcibly done to her in the flashback sequence (I wonder if that was done for practical reasons as much as censorship ones, to create the implication of the injection rather than having to do it for real).

That brutal and unnecessarily drawn out and exploitational fifteen minute or so flashback sequence rather wrecks the tone of the film (though the transition in and out of it is one of the most visually interesting ways of depicting a flashback transition that I have seen, with a slowly circling camera move suddenly reversing the other way and a transition into black and white before the colour slowly fades back up), because in the end while it is fundamentally the tragedy and abuse of Yoko having to become a Cressida-like figure to continue to live after being forced into a horrible situation by the (stupid, stupid) actions of her boyfriend, the film itself is really all about Kiba (his name is in the title after all) and his job is to protect Junpei, nobody else. So after Yoko inevitably kills herself (and the boss via a magic bullet) rather than Junpei, it is Junpei who gets to have the moment of sad introspection at the dock before going off to open his gym with his ill-gotten gains, whilst Kiba gets to have a friendly bout with that police officer (which is really all that the police officer appeared interested in himself!), in a makeshift outdoor arena before inevitably winning and leaving the policeman crumpled in a heap as he walks off and the credits roll!

But despite that tonal whiplash, I found it to be an interesting film. That sense of the ex-boxer being the naive lunk causing havoc to everyone, on all sides, by his impulsive actions is interesting. That assault sequence really anticipates many later scenes in Miike's films, and there is also that sense of events moving from the 'big city' of Tokyo initially to more rural areas, which feels like another big Miike theme over his later films. In this film it is going to Okinawa with apparently a lot of play made about the more 'rural' accents in that area, at least according to the subtitles emphasising that certain lines are spoken in a particular dialect! That aspect only broadens out in the second film: Bodyguard Kiba: Apocalypse of Carnage

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In Bodyguard Kiba: Apocalypse of Carnage, Kiba gets told to accompany a lady to Taipei where she is apparently going to meet her lover and they will then leave the country together. The lady is reticent about why she needs a bodyguard and who exactly might be wanting to target her, but she is offering a lot of money so the job cannot be passed up! Kiba takes her to stay in a Taipei chapter of the karate school (where he can act like a visiting professor during the job as well!), because that seems to be safest place to keep her, although the welcoming manager of the school seems a little shifty at times! I will try to be brief but this situation gets really complicated as again a simple job gets complicated by double crossings involving the female character.
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The head of the school back in Tokyo suddenly half way through the film gets a realisation that this lady was the daughter of a man he so comprehensively defeated in a karate bout that he committed suicide from shame. She has a brother, who is the head of the Taipei branch of the school, having inserted himself into that role over many years purely for the purposes of getting revenge on the karate school that led to his father's death. The film is at great pains to point out that the sister is innocent of this wider plot, as she had only just recently been reunited with the brother and had been forced by him into taking centre stage in his scheme to bring Kiba across to Taipei and eliminate him, presumably before going after the Tokyo organisation more directly. Although honestly the brother's whole plan feels rather un-thought through!

Anyway the brother during this time has fallen in with a group of Taiwanese shady figures who themselves want to destroy the karate organisation, and they have become tired of the brother's convoluted scemes and eventually just decide to kill both him, the sister and anyone at the school! The brother is allowed to explain his tragic backstory and on being beaten up by one of Kiba's colleagues acting on his behalf (Kiba having been shot in the interim so being unable to do it for himself) is allowed to leave with his sister, whilst the elderly Taiwanese gang leader fumes!
At least there is no gang rape in this film, though there is a quite bizarre sequence of the Taiwanese gang leader, who has been acting as a patron to the karate school through the brother, inviting Kiba to a meeting then going downstairs to the nightclub that he owns and dancing with a couple of topless girls whilst Kiba looks on, slightly perturbed by the whole situation!

The most interesting element to this film (along with a brief last act appearance of that female karate expert from the previous film, who again in the final big brawl shows that she is the best fighter out of everyone!) is the use of the Taipei locations. One of the most interesting things about many of Takashi Miike's films is that he often is not shy in depicting a range of characters from different backgrounds and how their different ethnicities causes its own issues between characters, at the very least of understanding. For instance before we know about him being the brother behind all of the plots, the manager of the karate school and Kiba communicate together through halting English, and then once his background is revealed the brother goes back to speaking in Japanese since he does not have to hide his true identity at that point. There is probably a piece to be written on the Japanese perspective of race as viewed through Takashi Miike's films (see for instance The City of Lost Souls and its Japanese-Brazillian and Chinese main characters), as well as the idea of Tokyo as a world unto itself, though I would need to see more to build up a better understanding of it. But it is interesting to see such ideas appearing even as early on as in these films.

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