My Favorite Miike

posted by The Joe

Takashi Miike was my gateway into Asian cinema, beginning when the legendary Audition and then City of Lost Souls were released in America in 2002. I have managed to view 54 of his 82 pictures since then, and it’s definitely a rarity if there’s nothing remotely worth watching in any of them. So instead of writing a boring Favorite New Film post on his newest and quite possibly finest work, I figured I’d make a list of what I consider the best of his best.


Bird People of China

The film that made audiences worldwide realize that Miike, usually known for his rampant audacity, can make a ‘normal’ movie. A businessman from Japan is sent to remote China in search of jade, and ends up on adventures reminiscent of the great live-action Disney films from the 60s & 70s. Pure delightful magic.

City of Lost Souls

This over-the-top yakuza gem is the film that first hooked me on Miike. Audition might have had the shock, but never before had I witnessed such a colorful blend of characters mixed in with what I would later realize is his favorite theme, and a theme that perhaps nobody has ever done better – cultural aimlessness. Films have rarely been cooler.

Dead or Alive

Only Takashi Miike could bring the acting juggernauts Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi together in this modern yakuza classic. Slower than his other works, but one of his most legendary due to his compressing of the screenplay’s first third into the first ten minutes and its batshit-crazy ending that resulted from Miike just being bored.

Dead or Alive II: Birds

Considered by many to be Miike’s finest film, and it’s a far step from its DOA predecessor. Focusing this time on the friendship between Aikawa and Takeuchi’s new characters, it expertly blends sentiment alongside audacity.

Deadly Outlaw: Rekka & Yakuza Demon

The great Riki Takeuchi has never been better than when he works alongside Miike, and these two lesser-known yakuza works of his filmography showcase the quieter, slower-paced side of Miike and are perhaps the actor’s finest performances.

God’s Puzzle

Even when Miike goes mainstream, which he had leaned more towards in the past decade, he can elevate material it to an all-new level. Case in point, the criminally still-unreleased-in-America God’s Puzzle. While at first appearing to deal with switcheroo teenage shenanigans, this epic tosses in surprisingly complex physics, apocalyptic scenarios, and world-saving rock & roll.

Happiness of the Katakuris

The funniest film of Miike’s fimography and his only musical. A family-run motel becomes the location of multiple unfortunate deaths, with rock legend Kiyoshiro Imawano tossed in for good measure as Richard, one of Miike’s most wonderful creations. Oh, and there’s claymation. A bizarre delight with one amazing musical number after the next.

Ichi the Killer

Stands alongside Audition as Miike’s most infamous film. A smorgasbord of surreal depravity and jet-black humor that’s held together by a tour-de-force villainous performance from Tadanobu Asano. Not for the weak of heart, but an utterly unique piece of cinema.

MPD Psycho

Miike first delved into digital video with the infamous Visitor Q and this manga adaptated, 6-episode TV series which pushes the medium more than most any other director has done before or since. Rightly known as the Japanese Twin Peaks, this detective mystery/sci-fi horror is always taking itself in strange, fascinating directions.

13 Assassins

The newest Miike film to his American shores that applies his ‘cultural aimlessness’ fascination to the samurai era. 13 Assassins has Miike working on his highest level, from mind-blowing production design to an incredible cast of actors (led by Koji Yakusho) to the film’s absolutely epic sense of scope. Easily one of the best of its kind.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 4:29 pm