Koroshiya Ichi/Ichi The Killer

mark schilling 0934611501 at jcom.home.ne.jp
Sat Jan 26 23:29:00 EST 2002

As Markus mentions, festival programmers prefer convenient, if meaningless,
labels as means of creating the necessary buzz for their hot property of the

Also, they tend to grease the squeakiest wheels, thus the films and
directors championed by the tireless and festival-savvy Mr. Sento have
gotten more than their share of program slots and consequent critical

This is hardly fair -- or unexpected, given the relentless competition among
the dozens of festivals out there. One result is that packaging and image
have become more important -- a trend that benefits a Miike, who always has
a new film for programmers to fight over and fits squarely into the
ever-popular "extreme" and "cult" pegs, than a Mochizuki, who is less
prolific and harder to sell as the latest Asian outlaw.

Does Miike deserve the attention? Does he have anything to offer but
shock -- i.e., more ingenious ways to slice, dice or, as in "Koroshiya
Ichi," deep fry human beings on the screen? I think so - once in a while.
"Audition" is a brutally effective thriller of the sexually cautionary sort:
"Fatal Attraction" cubed. At least I walked out of the theater feeling as
though I'd seen a movie made by an adult for adults. Most of his recent
stuff -- Dead or Alive," "Hazard City," "Korshiya Ichi," --is wildly patchy
and either partly or entirely juvenile. The obvious targets here are young
males resisting the relentless social pressure to do the right "gentle
Japanese" thing. Their counterparts in the West are kicking more against the
PC pap they're been fed since babyhood, but they amount to much the same
audience -- Miike gets two for the price of one. In most cases, though, this
rebellion amounts to little more than enthusiastically consuming violent
fantasies -- going "wow" when Ichi eviscerates an opponent with one swipe of
the blade in his boot. I was once one of those kids myself (though my "wow"
moment was watching Odd Job wing his derby at James Bond), so I understand
what the kick is, but I'm also an old fart who gets itchy after more than a
few scenes of it.

I have difficulty seeing Miike as the avatar of anything but his own "king
of cult" career, though if he found a producer with good commercial
instincts who could parse a script, he might have a better shot at realizing
his dream -- becoming the Japanese John Woo. I'm afraid, though, that he is
in danger of becoming a "sensei" -- a law unto himself, until he falls from
fashion into an eternal bohemian twilight. In other words, become this
generation's Wakamatsu Koji.

Mark Schilling

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