Aug 04

This month’s Sight and Sound features a review of Takashi Miike’s new film

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This month’s Sight and Sound features a review of Takashi Miike’s new film Gozu, and tentatively calls 2001’s Visitor Q his masterpiece. The reviewer’s take on Miike’s prolific career (Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer are championed as the twin peaks of his 60-odd film oeuvre) jarred enough with my own to prompt the piece your reading now.

Now I wasn’t particularly enamoured with Visitor Q, but subsequent discussion (on ilx amongst other places) had interested me enough to wait until a second viewing; perhaps my initially hostile opinion was in need of a revision. Stopping to think about the things I’d said, I suddenly noticed a coincidence – my criticism of Visitor Q was astonishingly similar to the praise I’d lavished on his other work. Although I’d be the last person to say that he’s beyond criticism, Miike occupies a strange (and perhaps unique) position in that his champions and his detractors often use the same points. An inconsistency that can be both infuriating and exhilarating, a sense of humour that can be either sharp or broad to the point of slapstick, and a flagrant disregard for anything even approaching a notion of taste or, at his most extreme, restraint. This middleground only stretches so far; I can’t help wishing how a more controlling director would have handled the bizarre pantomime of The Happiness of the Katakuris, for example.

I’m not confident enough in my knowledge – or opinion – of Miike’s films to start throwing the word masterpiece around, but if I was held to it, my ‘twin peaks’ would be Ichi The Killer and Audition. Perhaps Audition isn’t as brave as Visitor Q. Or perhaps I just find it easier to engage with its slow-burning horror than the ultra-violent slapstick of Ichi and Visitor Q. Whatever the case, I can’t help thinking Ichi and Audition would make the most convincing argument for the man’s inconsistent, unpredictable, fascinating talents.

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