Widgets Magazine

Sex, violence and Takashi Miike

Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

For those of you who have never heard of Takashi Miike, I would like to relate a quick anecdote. When I was in the eighth grade, I rented Miike’s film “Ichi the Killer” with my friend Brian during one of our regular, Friday night movie marathons, mistaking it for a more conventional gangster flick. Without exaggerating in the slightest, neither of us slept a wink for more than two days afterward. So intense was Miike’s imagery in the blood-soaked, organ-wrenching epic that it literally denied me the ability to relax for days. It was awesome.

While he is perhaps best known for his employment of bizarre, near-cartoonish depictions of ultra-violence and sexuality in works like “Ichi” and “Audition,” since his debut in 1991, Miike has directed more than 80 pictures, working tirelessly to simultaneously write, shoot and edit as many as four films at once. Topically, they vary from pictures like “The Happiness of the Katakuris”—a family drama which might resemble something along the lines of “The Family that Preys” if Tyler Perry’s Cartwright clan carried a dark curse and experienced a terrible zombie—to last year’s “Yatterman,” which is, essentially, a two-hour adaptation of “Power Rangers” for Japanese children. What Miike’s films have in common, however, is the same powerful and dynamic style and vision that shook me to the core when I was 13 and that told me “whatever you think movies should be, forget it.” Essentially, to his international audience, Miike is that dude, to quote Rakim, “the only one capable, breaks the unbreakable, melodies-unmakable, pattern-unescapable.”

This year, Miike actually toned down his fevered four-picture-a-year schedule in order to focus on the production of “13 Assassins,” his upcoming remake of director Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 classic by the same name. Supposedly based on a true incident, “Assassins” finds its setting in feudal Japan, where a small group of samurai are tasked with killing, at great risk to their own lives, the feudally ascendant tyrant Lord Naritsugu before he is able to ascend to the ultimate rank of Shogun and plunge Japan into generations of unimaginable darkness. Having selected a suitable place for their ambush, the 13 discover that the tyrant’s entourage now numbers in the hundreds, not, as they originally thought, only a dozen or two. Regardless, they believe in their higher calling, and so decide to carry out the ferocious attack until the last man. Already nominated for best picture at the 34th Annual Japan Academy Prize, bones will break and heads will roll in this beautifully captured and masterfully executed period epic. To use terminology that the committedly non-commercial director would likely despise me for employing in the service of his film, Miike will rock your #@!*ing world.

I was fortunate enough to speak with the director last weekend over Skype.

“The personal objective for me was to restore what has been lost in the element of Japanese film,” he said. “I believe the films made back then offered so much, were so stimulating. This was our attempt to regain what has been lost.”

In case you’re curious, he wasn’t kidding. If you’re looking to see a film that grabs you, physically, to shake you like the first time you saw “Seven Samurai,” this is it. “13 Assassins” is already available on digital VOD and iTunes and will open to select locations in the Bay Area on May 20.