Sunday, February 1, 2009
Admittedly, I've been as confused by Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer (2001) as anyone else, but I feel that maybe I picked up on some clues to what it's actually about both from watching it a few times and by doing some reading. The characters' struggles of trying to move from being involuntary masochists to sadists, from weakness to power, the character of Jijii's god-like presence and his manipulation of everyone in the film, the audience being denied identification with Ichi and therefore being forced to identify with the pain loving Kakihara and to revel in the violence and being disappointed in the lack of it in the finale, just like him. This, coupled with the contrast between the cartoony CG blood and gore and the harder but at times only implied violence to women basically adds up to one thing. How much are you willing to take and what will it take to make you reflect on what you are watching? Even if these are just excuses to legitimize a film full of rape and violence towards women and other unsympathetic behaviour I'd still say that Ichi the Killer has more to offer when it comes to story and characterizations than the average exploitation film.
I recently read a review of the film Tokyo Gore Police (Yoshihiro Nishimura, 2008) where it was compared to Miike's film and made out to be something possibly could have been the next Ichi the Killer with other examples of films going for that being The Machine Girl (Noboru Iguchi, 2008) and Chanbara Beauty (Yohei Fukuda, 2008). Pure exploitation films with no other reason behind them than to show off some cool action scenes and as much blood, guts and female skin as possible to draw in the crowds. I understand that if you look at Ichi as a pure gore flick you may want to compare it to other films in terms of the amount of blood and violence in them, but as Ichi has nothing really resembling a real action scene and relies on the audience to fill in the blanks in some of the more offensive scenes I'd say that the cartoon gore that is in there is not enough to beat a lot of other films in that regard. From the first time I watched it I've felt that it lived more on its reputation in horror fan circles than what is actually in the film.
I enjoyed The Machine Girl and I look forward to watching Tokyo Gore Police and it makes me feel like a bitter old snob for writing this but this is one of the frustrations of being a fan of Asian cinema in Sweden. People are still just looking for the new Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto or Kiyoshi Kurosawa and new versions of their old films instead of looking for the next directors to make an impact of their own, maybe in similar ways but in their own styles with their own views of things.
When I first saw the trailers for The Machine Girl and Chanbara Beauty, one thought that never crossed my mind was "Oh hell yeah! This could be the new Ichi the Killer!" It must be more fun being a horror fan.
Posted by Executive Koala at 2:35 PM