Thursday, July 9, 2009

Takashi Miike's Detective Story (2007)

I am a Takashi Miike fanboy, and to some, that means that I currently reside in Miike-san's anus, perineum, and scrotum. Having lived in that dark place for quite a while now by having viewed approximately fifty of his approximately eighty films, I cannot dispute that I am a geeky Miike fanboy. I'm so geeky that I own Tom Mes's excellent and aptly-titled Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike. If I were a good writer, then Mes's writing would still far exceed my own (I recommend his book to all); however, as another introduction, I would like to quote fully Agitator's afterword by transgressive and experimental fellow-film maker Shinya Tsukamoto:

Many actors hope to one day participate in a Takashi Miike film. Especially guys. They want to go back to being naughty boys and go wild. Miike lets them indulge themselves in this fantasy freely and knows exactly how to provoke them. And once provoked, the actors--bombard each other with their energy, lifting the film up and spinning it off into higher orbit.

I was also one of those guys who were allowed to indulge themselves. It was a very joyful experience.

Fierce. Nonsensical. Vulgar. Powerful. These are words that could be used to describe Takashi Miike. But without doubt the most essential words are self-assured and clever.

Tsukamoto was a pivotal participant in Miike's excellent and representative Ichi the Killer (2003). While I cannot claim to be a literal participant, like Tsukamoto, in Miike's madness, I can say I do in spirit. No other film maker truly represents more what I most admire in art: a court-jester-like playfulness with one eye that winks with a smile and a closed eye, hiding an inherent darkness, which occasionally, and often also playfully, reveals itself. Miike is the true agitator: most cinefiles find his cinema boring, excruciating, and inconsistent. He doesn't fit neatly into any auteur theory (of his nearly eighty films, he has contributed/written only two), and for this quality, Miike gets all of my love. As he continues to piss people off, I will continue to watch his films. I had the opportunity recently to view Detective Story (2007). "What's up with the wig?" asks my baby brother, while sitting next to me. "I have no idea, bro," says I. The wig belongs to private detective Raita Kazama and it is his sole disguise to offset his flamboyant, vintage- clothing outfit. He's on the trail of a serial killer, one who is stealing vital organs from his victims. One of those victims was a pretty lady, who visited Kazama one evening, very late. Kazama was getting drunk at his new next-door neighbor's, also named Raita, and Kazama couldn't be bothered. She's killed walking home. The police are suspicious of Kazama, because of the victim's final visit was at his home and near the next victim, Kazama's ballpoint pen is found. Kazama has no choice but to solve the mystery. Maybe the Gothic artist with a spiritual bent, named Yuki Aoyama, has something to do with the killings. That's a bare-bones preview to Miike's Detective Story, and the mystery does conclude, predictably and unexpectedly. Along the way, however, Miike is going to play a bit. In a couple of subtle scenes (I picked them out during a second viewing), a female figure is seen in the background, seemingly following Kazama during his investigation. Ghost of Kazama's visiting victim? I don't know: the motif is never fully developed or explained. Late in the investigation, Kazama goes to visit a serial killer, one whom Kazama arrested from his police-officer past. "You're here to gain knowledge about the current serial killer?" Sound familiar? Although his hands are bound and his mouth is obstructed, can you tell that he still loves his McDonald's Extra Value Meal?Miike also litters Detective Story with images from a peeping tom, looking at photos on his computer. The peeping tom is a textbook collateral character and standout red herring; and he has no other link to story but maybe to provide nudity in the film. Raita, meanwhile, meets pretty and leggy Mika at Kazama's office. Raita takes her to an art showing of Yuki Aoyama's recent work. Scared that she's running out on him, Raita asks, "Where are you going?" "To the bathroom," says Mika. Short pause to close-up on Mika's feet, where a stream of urine is running down her leg. She smiles and says she couldn't wait. While she is washing her skirt and her panties in the bathroom, she discovers one of the killer's victims. How fortuitous. Detective Story is a mystery with a linear storyline, a narrative arc, and a satisfying climax. Very traditional. Traditional, however, is just not Miike's way. All of the ridiculous flourishes are distractions from the main narrative, but the distractions are what this film is all about. It's what Miike's cinema is all about. Is it fantastic? Is it boring? Is it ground-breaking? Is it a retread? Buy it here. In fact, buy a bunch of Miike's movies. I imagine if Takashi Miike were able to witness your purchase, then he would have a smile on his face. Whether the smile comes from his happiness that you bought his movies or he just played a big joke on you is entirely unknown.


Mr.LargePackage said...

Mcdonald's and the man win again, and that is large and in charge. By the way, why is Travis Touchdown wearing a wig?

Anonymous said...

There are few tortures worse than smelling McDonald's fries, but being unable to eat them.