The newest Takashi Miike extravaganza arrived in the U.S. (on DVD) last week, and while many of his films are infamous for some bizarre content, Imprint is the first I know of that can credibly place the word “Banned” in a banner across its packaging. Imprint was originally commissioned by Mick Garris and IDT Entertainment as one episode among 13 in the independently produced Masters of Horror series that was meant to premiere on the U.S. cable channel Showtime and then live forever on DVD. Partway through the season, word got out that the schedule had been changed for the last few airings — Showtime had declined the opportunity to air Miike-san’s contribution to the series. In a series that featured contributions from genre stalwarts like John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, and Don Coscarelli — and the great Joe Dante piece, Homecoming, about a bunch of Iraq vets who come back in an election year as zombies determined to vote President Bush out of office — the one that succeeded in getting Showtime’s dander up was by the Japanese dude with the crazy sunglasses.
Imagine the Japanese unquiet-ghost anthology Kwaidan cross-bred with The Neverending Story and directed by Terry Gilliam. That’s the gist of The Great Yokai War, an honest-to-god children’s movie from the chameleonic Japanese genre director Takashi Miike. In a little more than two hours, Miike runs roughshod over centuries of Japanese folk tales, spinning a yarn that has a young boy, Tadashi, chosen as the rider of the Kirin — sort of a cross between a dragon and a unicorn, but also, as the film eventually reminds us, a tasty Japanese brew. He finds himself drawn into the titular war of the Yokai, Japanese spirits that take many radically different forms.
In which Japan’s premier stylist of sex and blood hits audiences with what may be his most demented film to date. A Fudoh-like tale of a young yakuza with designs on taking over the whole damn family, Ichi the Killer plumbs depths that Takashi Miike’s punishing masterpiece Audition merely skirted.
The best way to see Takashi Miike’s Audition might be to have it handed to you on an unmarked videotape by a friend who knows exactly what freaks you out. So you tabula-rasa types should check out of this review right now. For those of you still here, I’ll aver that Audition is the real deal–a masterful exercise in the manipulation of moods that gradually takes on the tonal quality and ambiguities of a nightmare.