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Asian Directors: A look at Takashi Miike (Japan)

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Acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike will be thrust into the spotlight again when his 2010 film “13 Assassins” reached Singapore shores on 23 June 2011, released by Cathay. Not an unfamiliar name among art house crowds, it is interesting that in recent years, Takashi Miike seems to be turning mainstream with films like this.

Coupled with “Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)”, these two films seem to serve as a likely precursor to more samurai flicks.  However, Miike has been known to move between genres, so getting back to his art house roots should not be too far in the near future.


13 Assassins

I first met filmmaker Takashi Mike through his artistic films (“Audition (1999)”, to be exact). And he has never ceased to amaze me since then. Using the term “specialist” to describe him is out of the question, for he dabbles in more genres than one could possibly imagine. From controversial cult hit “Ichi the Killer (2001)” to shocker film “Audition (1999)” (of which only a film maestro could produce) to the eccentric albeit memorable horrifying “Imprint”, Takashi Miike never ceases to amaze his fans with his artistic directions and stylistic filming antics.

Extreme cinema aside, it might be good to mention at this point that he also weaves a great art house movie – of which the effective use of red and white in his film “Sukiyaki Western: Djanjo (2007)” was both a beautiful display of his luscious passion for colours and a well-versed display of flamboyance (second only to Zhang Yimou’s “Hero (2002)” and “Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)”

With “13 Assassins (2010)” and “Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)” under his belt, Takashi Miike seems to be exploring samurai movies these days, and one can’t help wondering if he intends to follow the route of the Japanese samurai film auteur Akira Kurosawa.

Devastating in visual impact and a visionary in cinematic imagery, few would be able to forget Kurosawa’s legendary works the likes of “Rashomon (1950)”, “Seven Samurai (1954)” and “Ran (1985)”.

This is not an easy road to follow but Takashi Miike does possess a certain sense and degree of avant garde, a certain penchant in portraying the strange and the macabre, as well as  a certain predilection for a visual display of colours.- all working towards the likelihood of his tendency to be a film director who is able to stand on his own.

Having just watched “13 Assassins”, this author is rather confident that Takashi Miike has the abilities and visual style to fill the shoes of Akira Kurosawa. Sacrificing eye-catching visual candy for an impactful and memorable storyline, Takashi Miike never disappointment his audience with this wonderful remake of the classic masterpiece back in 1963.

A group of interesting and at times eccentric samurais, a somewhat sadistic and war-hungry feudal lord as well as an ideological clash between two loyalists devoted to their causes make this film a must-watch for samurai film lovers. And for those who have watched “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa, it might be interesting to see the parallels drawn between the two films.

Embodying honesty, one of the seven virtues of bushido, Takashi Miike never disappoints with his portrayal of characters and situations in his films. In fact, when it comes to “13 Assassins”, he has characterised samurais with such brutal frankness in terms of their undying loyalty to their masters that viewers will inadvertently cringe at the heart-wrenching scenes of self-sacrifice and brotherhood in the second half of the film.

No wonder Takashi Miike still dazzles global audiences with his films all these years.

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