Saturday, February 7, 2009

Takashi Miike @ Japan Society

In a sold out Q&A session at Japan Society, Japanese auteur Takashi Miike admitted to suppressing his bloodlust while making his latest film, Yatterman, which premiered yesterday at New York's ComicCon. As anyone who has seen Miike's films can attest, this is not something he makes a habit of doing. From the start of the event, Miike made clear that while he is often viewed as a horror/gore director outside of Japan, his work is really just a reflection of reality. "Human nature makes us do horrible things," he explained. Everyone of us, beneath our skin and in our veins, is filled with blood. All it would take is a little pin prick and we could have a horror set right here, he continued. His films are not fantasy, but hyper-reality. These brutal truths, with a little "hope at the end," is how he characterized much of his work. Beyond that, Miike said, he would prefer not to analyze or be self-conscious about the process.

This hour-long event was moderated by Marc Walkow, co-director of the New York Asian Film Festival, and helped along by a translator. Miike fielded questions about his childhood, schooling, and creative inspirations, drawing direct correlations between his affinity for marginal characters as the protagonists in his films and his own marginal position as a filmmaker and his experience growing up amongst various outcasts. He is still running from adulthood to this day, he laughed, which is why he went into movie making in the first place. It seemed as though there might have been a request to keep the questions soft, because it wasn't until the audience participation that the few in-depth queries of the session were proposed. There was a continual evasion, on Miike's part, of discussing any specifics regarding the extreme instances of misogynistic carnality present in many of his films. When asked about female fans in the U.S., he said it was interesting that they enjoyed his work, even if it hadn't been specifically created with them in mind. And when asked about female fans in Japan, he was speechless for a second before replying that he had cast top male actor/pop star, Sho Sakurai, in Yatterman to make up for his lack of such fans. The subject of women was clearly not going to lead anywhere.

Despite the fact that Miike continually affirmed his outsider status and his allegiance with those who don't fit into socially prescribed roles, his stance on gender, as expressed in this session, was overtly traditional. The same can be said for many of his films. Miike may not be able to transgress Japanese gender mores to the extent he has broken boundaries for expressions of sex and violence on film, but it doesn't have to detract from his impressive, extensive, and visually stunning body of work. The next time you want to watch a girlfriend scorned amputate her boyfriend's feet with piano wire or a father pay his teenage daughter for sex, Miike is your man.


Anonymous said...

really want to see that movie

Unknown said...

woh, your review is way more cogent than the interview itself was. being there was pretty awesome, but you definitely make it sound even cooler.

it was so funny to see miike visibly discomfited by the thought of females watching his movies - given the messed up stuff he's shown us, isn't it funny that the image of popcorn-popping OLs watching the promised titty missiles in Yatterman disturbs him?

since he's mastered the art of daring you to watch, i'm happy to be of service in my own little way. can't wait to see it.