Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Asian Cinema

Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike (born August 24, 1960) is a highly prolific and controversial Japanese flimmaker. He has directed over seventy theatrical, video, and television productions since his debut in 1991. In the years 2001 and 2002 alone, Miike is credited with directing fifteen productions. His films range from violent and bizarre to dramatic and family-friendly.

Miike’s theatrical debut was the film ‘The Third Gangster’ (1995). However it was ‘Shinjuku Triad Society’ (1995) that was the first of his theatrical releases to gain public attention. The film showcased his extreme style and his recurring themes, and its success gave him the freedom to work on higher-budgeted pictures. Shinjuku Triad Society is also the first film in what is labeled his “Black Society Trilogy”, which also includes ‘Rainy Dog’ (1997) and ‘Ley Lines’ (1999). He gained international fame in 2000 when his romantic horror film ‘Audition’ (1999) his violent Yakuza epic ‘Dead or Alive’ (1999), and his controversial manga adaptation of ‘Ichi the Killer’ (2001) played at international film festivals. He has since gained a strong cult following in the West that is growing steadily with the increase in DVD releases of his works. His latest film ‘Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai’ premiered In Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. I reviewed ’13 Assassins’ a week or so ago.

Miike has garnered international notoriety for depicting shocking scenes of extreme violence and sexual perversions. Many of his films contain graphic and lurid bloodshed, often portrayed in an over-the-top, cartoonish manner. Much of his work depicts the activities of criminals (especially Yakuza) or concern themselves with non-Japanese living in Japan. He is known for his black sense of humour and for pushing the boundaries of censorship as far as they will go.

I think his best film is ‘Audition’ (1999), the film has been likened to ‘Misery’ and ‘In the Realm of the Senses’ due to its graphic violence. However, the torture scene in the movie is very brief, and only a few shots show the actual torture, focusing more on Asami’s sadistic enjoyment of it. Among filmmakers featured on Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments” (on which the film appeared at #11), notable horror directors including Eli Roth, John Landis and Rob Zombie found the film very difficult to watch,given its grisly content; Landis said that the film was so disturbing that he couldn’t enjoy it at all. Massive internet movie site, Bloody Disgusting ranked the film fourteenth in their list of the ‘Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade’, with the article saying “Considered by many to be Takashi Miike’s masterpiece, this cringe-inducing, seriously disturbed film boasts one of the most unbearable scenes of torture in movie history… It’s revolting in the best possible way; the prolific Miike goes for the jugular here, and he cuts deep.”

One of his most controversial films was the ultra-violent ‘Ichi the Killer’ (2001), adapted from a manga comic of the same name and starring Tadanobu Asano as a sadomasochistic Yakuza enforcer. The extreme violence was initially exploited to promote the film: during its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001, the audience received “barf bags” emblazoned with the film’s logo as a promotional gimmick (one typically flamboyant gory killing involves a character slicing a man in half from head to groin, and severing another’s face, which then slides down a nearby wall).

However, the BBFC refused to allow the release of the film uncut in Britain, citing its extreme levels of sexual violence towards women. In Hong Kong, 15 minutes of footage were cut. In the United States it has been shown uncut (unrated).

In 2005, Miike was invited to direct an episode of the ‘Masters of Horror’ anthology series. The series, featuring episodes by a range of established horror directors such as John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Dario Argento, was supposed to provide directors with relative creative freedom and relaxed restrictions on violent and sexual content (Some violent content was edited from the Dario Argento-directed episode ‘Jenifer’). However, when the Showtime cable network acquired the rights to the series, the Miike-directed episode ‘Imprint’ was deemed too disturbing for the network. Showtime cancelled it from the broadcast lineup even after extended negotiations, though it was retained as part of the series’ DVD release. Mick Garris, creator and executive producer of the series, described the episode as “amazing, but hard even for me to watch… definitely the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen”.


Park Chan-wook

Park Chan-wook (born August 23, 1963) is a South Korean film director, writer, producer and former film critic. One of the most acclaimed and popular filmmakers in his native country, Park is most known for his films ‘Joint Security Area’ (2000), ‘Thirst’ (2009) and what has become known as The Vengeance Trilogy,  consisting of 2002’s ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’, ‘Oldboy’ (2003) and ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ (2005). His films are noted for their immaculate framing and often brutal subject matter.

His debut feature film was ‘The Moon is… The Sun’s Dream’ (1992), and after five years, he made his second film ‘Trio’ (1997) . Neither of his early films were successful, and he pursued a career as a film critic to make a living. Then in 2000, Park directed ‘Joint Security Area’, which was a great success both commercially and critically, at the time of its release becoming the most-watched film ever made in South Korea. This success made it possible for him to make his next film more independently – ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’  is the result of this creative freedom.

After winning the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for the film ‘Oldboy’ (2003), a journalist asked, “in your film, why is the vengeance repeating?”. According to Park, he decided to make three consecutive films with revenge as the central theme. Park said his films are about the utter futility of vengeance and how it wreaks havoc on the lives of everyone involved. Despite extreme violence in his films, Park is regarded as one of the most popular film directors in Korea, with three of his last five feature films all drawing audiences of over 3 million. This makes Park the director of three films in the thirty all-time highest grossing films in South Korea.

American director Quentin Tarantino is an avowed fan of Park. As the head judge in 2004 Cannes Film Festival, he personally pushed for Park’s ‘Oldboy’ to be awarded the Palme d’Or (the honor eventually went to Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11). Oldboy garnered the Grand Prix, the second-highest honor in the competition. Tarantino also regards Park’s Joint Security Area to be one of “the top twenty films made since 1992.”

In 2009, Park directed his first vampire film, ‘Thirst’ (2009) which won Prix du jury along with ‘Fish Tank’, directed by Andrea Arnold at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The film tells the story of a priest—who is in love with his friend’s wife—turning into a vampire through a failed medical experiment. Park has stated, “This film was originally called ‘The Bat’ to convey a sense of horror. After all, it is about vampires. But it is also more than that. It is about passion and a love triangle. I feel that it is unique because it is not just a thriller, and not merely a horror film, but an illicit love story as well.”

Earlier in 2011, Park said his new fantasy-horror film Paranmanjang (Night Fishing) was shot entirely on the iPhone.


Zombie (Z-108) – Teaser

Nasty trailer for Joe Chien’s ‘Zombie 108’ This is the Asian trailer, not the new western version, it is longer and tackier… and a lot more fun!


13 Assassins ****

In 1844 Japan, a sadistic young Shogun, Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira is in line to ascend to the Shogunate where he will become second in command. The swearing in ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Akashi domain. Determined to stop him before he arrives at his destination is master Shogun Samurai Shinzaemon Shimada. He enlists the help of 11 Samurai and they head to the town of Ochlai where they plan to ambush Naritsugu and his army of 70 men. On their journey they get lost in the jungle and enlist the help of a local hunter as their guide and the 13th Assassin of the title.

As they prepare the small town of Ochlai for the ambush, they learn that although Naritsugu has delayed his journey, his arrival is imminent, and he now is now travelling with a 200 strong army. Massively outnumbered, the 13 would be assassins must battle against the odds to complete their suicide mission…

Takashi Miike, the controversial cult director behind ‘Audition’ and ‘Ichi the Killer’ has made one of his more accessible movies. That’s not to say that 13 Assassins doesn’t have some disturbing scenes and a lot of violence, it has those in abundance, however it is also a very traditional story about loyalty and honour. These principles are displayed by the contrasting beliefs of the two high ranked Samurai in the film. Our hero, Shinzaemon favours the belief that the Samurai are protectors of justice for the people of Japan, and his direct opponent and rival Hanbei, Lord Naritsugu’s number one, believes that a Samurai’s duty lies in complete and total servitude to their master.

Having said that, the main reason most will watch this film is for the action, and it delivers, the final battle sequence alone runs for almost 50 non-stop minutes! It is incredibly well choreographed and beautifully shot.

There are a few disturbing moments, this is a Takashi Miike film after all. They involve the cruelty of Naritsugu and are perhaps a little too extreme for this type of film; the first involves him shooting an entire family at close range with arrows and most disturbingly, we see the results of a girl he tortured by chopping off her arms, legs and cutting out her tongue. Miike makes Naritsugu so despicable that he’s almost a caricature of a bad guy.

The film will draw comparisons to Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ however although a good movie and worth the effort, it’s not in the same class.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars