Psychological Mastermind: Takashi Miike
Psychological Mastermind: Takashi Miike
Who would ever imagine that there could be beauty in the mind of a psychopath? If there is such a thing, it’s most certainly found in the imagination of Takashi Miike. He has the eye of a painter with the mind of a serial killer --bloody guts and gore with an uncanny bit of grace.
Coming from a working class area in Yao, Osaka, Japan, Miike had a very normal upbringing. His father was a welder and his mother, a seamstress. He graduated from the Yokohama Vocational School of Broadcast and Film, under the tutelage of one of the most celebrated directors in Japan, Shōhei Imamura. With technical knowledge and an eye on the boundaries of the film industry, Miike shook up the world with some of the most shocking, lurid, creepy, and over the top work to come out of Japan.
Though he’s never been one to toot his own horn, it’s plain to see that Miike is an artist of gore and black comedy. Though his work takes a particular taste, you can’t deny that his work leaves the world in awe at every single turn. At his most shocking, he doesn’t allow you to settle. The nerves are always dangling by fingernails on the edge of the proverbial cliff and just when you think he’s going to step on your fingers and watch you fall to the rocks below in a lump of blood and brain matter, he reaches out his hand and pulls you back just long enough for you to take a few gulps of clean air before being shoved right back over.
Some of the most beautiful films to come out of the early 2000s seemed to come from the chainsaw of Miike. Well, I suppose I’m biased. The first taste I got of Miike was from his infamous film, Audition. One of those films worthy of cult status. I think the first time I actually watched the film I couldn’t believe how disgustingly gorgeous it was. Miike knows just what to expose to get you involved in the film. And just when you’ve found yourself caring about the characters in a way that’s too close for comfort, he slaps you in the face. No, fuck that! He straight up molly-wops you in the skull! It’s the kind of film that could catch you so off guard that it keeps you awake at night for months afterwards --maybe not out of fear; more out of a constant throbbing feeling of unease that just when you think everything’s beautiful, something’s going to sneak up behind you and kick you in the arse.
I think that’s what’s so brilliant about the psychotic brain matter of Takashi Miike. Yes, he’s all about the blood and gratuitous sexual perversity. However, for someone who delves deep into the human flesh, he sure knows how to make it gorgeous! I think the most touching aspect of Miike’s style is that he has the eye of a photographer and the hand of a gifted painter --he sees the beauty, but doesn’t force it. It may seem like he squeezes ever drop of weirdness possible out of every scene, but he has an exceptional eye for sensitivity. There’s a reason why Audition has been described as a “romantic horror”. That’s the kind of contradiction that Miike works with --perhaps romance and horror aren’t so different?
In Ichi the Killer, you’re not simply dealing with a killing machine whose only real goal is to destroy the ruthless Kuchisaki-oona faced Yakuza maniac, Kakihara. It’s the story of an orphan named Ichi who’s been brainwashed from childhood with the idea that he’s nothing without his natural urge to kill. There’s a depth and a care taken with each character. That’s the brilliance of Miike --the audience gets so close to each character (even those who seem to be the most gruesome) that at you can’t help but get involved in their stories. And at the crucial moment of intimacy between the audience and the characters, there’s a feeling like being pushed in front of an oncoming diesel train. Scenes of complex emotional thickness between Ichi and anyone he encounters are followed by unethically violent scenes of torture and violence (the slitting of a woman’s nipples, a man’s face cut clean from his skull and splattered across a blood-soaked wall).
It’s this push and pull that is indicative of the range and imagination to make some of the most entertaining children’s films (Zebraman and The Great Yokai War) and the most touching and intellectually complex films (Sabu and The Bird People in China). Miike’s desire to delve deeper than what the mind initially wants to tackle is what sets him apart in the film industry among an elite few that manage to teach as well as repulse. He pushes the boundaries of violence, sexuality, and intellect to a pulsating breaking point.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so repulsed and so educate about raw and unapologetic beauty than with Miike. He’s a master that is, surprisingly, underrated in the film industry. Those close to film tout him as a genius. Those just meeting him for the first time are driven crazy to the point of murder. Whichever side of the saucer you spill, there’s no way that you can avoid being affected by the psychological mastermind that is Takashi Miike.
There is pure beauty in everything. I have a keen interest in all things that shed light and colour in this dark and, at times, uninspiring world. I love film, all film --ranging from Japanese and Korean horror, to nonsensical action films. The one qualification is that it must, must entertain me. As much as I love watching film, I love even more to write about it.
Right now, I get my jabberjaw jollies writing about Halloween costumes. If you want to give me a buzz, I can be reached at cmlewhite at gmail [dot] com.