is probably the flat-out strangest, most mind-bending
movie from Takashi Miike
; a Japanese auteur who has made built his repuations on movies which are some combination of bizarre symbolism
, Black Comedy
, Darker and Edgier
, and Gorn
Starting ostensibly as yet another Yakuza
movie, it takes a major turn into the surreal very soon into the story. Yakuza junior member Minami is ordered by the head of the gang to take his increasingly erratic and unstable senior member Ozaki out to a remote location, where he can be disposed of by an allied "cleaner". On the way, Ozaki dies mysteriously; and the story takes a turn for the decidedly surreal
, when Ozaki's body disappears in a nearly-deserted, run-down suburb of Nagoya. Nothing appears to make much sense after that, either to the viewer or the protagonist. Minami endures a number of episodic, and confusing, adventures, and meets a cast of highly deranged characters — including a middle-aged woman who bottles and sells her breast milk; a huge, minotaur-like being wearing baggy underwear; several crossdressers who run the town's cafe; an unreliable guide with an odd skin condition; and a beautiful, enigmatic woman who claims to be his brother Ozaki.
At first, the entire film seems to be just a collection of random weirdness. However, it actually makes sense with the knowledge that nearly all the characters and events
which take place after the arrival in Nagoya are based on events and figures from Greek and Japanese mythology
; and that the entire story represents Minami's sexual awakening, and his coming to terms with both his homosexuality and his love for Ozaki
It was originally planned as a straightforward action movie intended for the Directto Video
market (the Original Video market, as is called in Japan, does not have the same stigma of poor quality attached to it as it does in many other countries), but it Miike found the screenplay was far too ambitious for the budget. Rather than turning down the project, Miike decided to run with it. He asked Sato Sakichi to completely re-write it, and Sakichi did so in so short a time that he claims he was pretty much writing from his subconscious. After a successful screening at Cannes, it was released theatrically. The new script was produced in two weeks; and much of the dialog, particularly for pivotal scenes, is completely improvised.Warning:
Due to the nature of the story, the list below may contain spoilers
This movie contains examples of:
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted with Minami.
- Ambiguously Gay: Several of the Nagoya denizens, particularly the guide.
- Badass Longcoat: Minami.
- Biggus Dickus: The size of Minami's manhood is a recurring topic.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Although solid for most of the movie, the fourth wall is broken briefly in one of the very rare examples (possibly the only one) where the break is both comedic and oddly disturbing.
- Catapult Nightmare: The way Minami jumps from his cow-head dream.
- Dies Wide Open: Minami is notably irritated by Ozaki's starring eyes.
- Fan Disservice: Hoo boy.
- Gayngster: Minami, and ultimately Ozaki. Possibly others.
- Gender Bender
- Go Out with a Smile: Boss does this due to a fatal rectal stimulus.
- Gorn: Surprisingly little for a Miike film; but there are a few moments.
- Happy Ending: Boss is dead, brother returns to the world of the living via the vagina of a woman claiming to be his reincarnation, she takes a bath and the protagonist the girl and brother go out and have a good time... credits roll.
- If I Do Not Return: Parodied by Ozaki, giving this speech in a overly dramatic manner right before he goes to face the yakuza car killer woman.
- Improv: Some of the key scenes were improvised, as was a great deal of dialog.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: The entire story after the arrival in Nagoya can be seen as this.
- Jumping the Gender Barrier: Sort of, used symbolically.
- Kick the Dog: Gangster Ozaki, in the "Yakuza attack dog" scene at the beginning of the movie. Well, not so much kick the dog, as pick it up by its leash and bash it to a bloody pulp on the nearest wall. Both figuratively and literally. The moment where Ozaki clearly goes from annoyingly unstable, to dangerously insane.
- Killer Rabbit: Played with. We'll never know if the cute Chihuahua in fact was a trained Yakuza attack dog.
- Lethal Chef: The chicken custard.
- Male Gaze: The camera work when Minami scans sleeping Female Ozaki.
- Mind Screw: Even when you know what the movie is about.
- Rule of Symbolism: The film makes almost no sense at all without the realization that, not only is nearly everything symbolic, it uses symbols and tropes drawn from several entirely unrelated sources ( mainly Japanese and Greek mythology, as well as psychological metaphors for the main character's coming to terms with his homosexuality).
- Schrödinger's Butterfly: When Minami wakes from his nightmare he finds the letter that was handed to him in the dream. Is this just another illusion? Or wasn't it a dream in the first place?
- Surreal Horror: Although more horrific for the protagonist than the audience.
- There Is Only One Bed: In the hotel room where Minami and the girl spend the night. Sexual tension ensured.
- Throw It In: The store-owner's American wife knew no Japanese, and had to read her lines phonetically off cue cards posted above her head. She proved to be absolutely hopeless at anything resembling proper pronunciation or competent acting. Miike found the result interesting, and expanded it into the Breaking the Fourth Wall moment mentioned above.
- Villainous Crossdresser: The staff of the cafe in Nagoya aren't actually villainous; just... really disturbing.