By Jake Howell

Countdown to Cannes: Takashi Miike


Background: Japanese; born Yao, Osaka, Japan, 1960.

Known for / style: 13 Assassins (2010), Ichi the Killer (2001), Audition (1999); an eclectic promiscuity of genre play, including martial arts extravaganzas, family-friendly films, and crime dramas; excessive, cartoonish violence and sexual themes; releasing some titles directly-to-video.

Notable accolades: In his home country, the Japanese Professional Movie Awards have been kind to Miike, handing him five Best Director wins (1997’s Rainy Dog and Young Thugs: Innocent Blood, 2000’s The Guys from Paradise, 2001’s Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer), a Best Film nod (Ichi the Killer), and finally the title of Movie King of the 1990s in 2001. Outside of Japan, Miike snagged both a FIPRESCI prize and the KNF Award for Audition (the KNF Award, oddly, is given to “the best feature film that has yet to find distribution within the Netherlands”). In 2010, Venice gave a Future Film Festival Digital Award (Special Mention) to Miike’s 13 Assassins.

Previous Cannes appearances: Miike has played the Croisette twice: once in Competition (2011’s 3D Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai) and once out of Competition (For Love’s Sake, 2012). Hara-Kiri was the first 3D film ever to screen in Competition.

Film he’s bringing to Cannes: Wara no Tate (Shield of Straw), a police thriller based on Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s best-selling novel of the same name. Takao Osawa (from Japanese TV show Jin) and Nanako Matsushima (I am Mita, Your Housekeeper) star as two cops tasked with escorting a convicted killer across Japan. Getting in the way are ruthless bounty hunters, eager to cash in on the head of the killer (played by Tatsuya Fujiwara, Death Note).

Could it win the Palme? While no director is truly exempt from winning the Palme d’Or, it would appear Miike’s latest thriller has the Japanese equivalent of “zilch” at taking home the prize. Cannes is not exactly known for awarding by-the-numbers action movies (2011’s Best Director-winning Drive resists genre conformity), and the film is released today in Japan—the latter point hurting Miike’s chances in the long run. The film may not be Miike’s best work: Time Out Tokyo gave the film two stars (out of five) on April 18, writing: Wara no Tate is “slick, empty, and rather dim.” If a local critic can’t get down with Miike’s latest, it ain’t looking good for the rest of us. The Japan Times review of the film is slightly sunnier (giving Miike three out of five stars), but that’s still less than stellar. If Miike has a friend on the jury, it’s director Naomi Kawase—a Japanese compatriot who may have a hell of a time convincing her fellow members that Wara no Tate is worth its weight in gold. Given her influences, though, that seems highly unlikely.

Why you should care: Miike releases so many films that it’s hard to get overly excited for a reportedly lesser entry. Still, Miike has produced at least one masterpiece in his prolific career (13 Assassins tops out at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes). Either way, with an explosive trailer and a strong cast, genre fans can look forward to a fun blitz through urban Japan. Wara no Tate could be just a good ol’ time at the movies, not the arthouse favorite that the Competition would ordinarily prize. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

One Response to “Countdown to Cannes: Takashi Miike”

  1. prunktanner says:

    A magician, for sure.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster