13 Assassins Director Miike – Too Prolific to be a Visionary?

Takeshi Miike

Takeshi Miike - Hardest Working Man in Show Business

Japanese director Takeshi Miike’s latest film, 13 ASSASSINS, a big budget remake of a 1963 classic samurai film, has been receiving a lot of hype due to its current simultaneous theatrical and VOD release by Magnolia.  Starring, top acting talent such as Koji Yakusho (SHALL WE DANCE, BABEL) and Yūsuke Iseya (MEMORIES OF MATSUKO), it has already been positioned for top awards since its premiere at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.   However, Miike first made his mark directing straight-to-video Japanese “V-Cinema” exploitation films, churning numerous films each year, including an insane 15 films in 2001 and 2002 alone.  Always, well regarded by the international film community, Miike’s career has spanned numerous genres, ranging from films for children to extreme cult films such as ICHII THE KILLER and AUDITION.

However, when you think of visionary filmmakers, the word “prolific” generally does not usually come to mind.  For example, during the prime of Orson Welles’ career, a time period starting in  1941, when CITIZEN KANE was released, and 1952, when his film OTHELLO was released, Orson Welles directed nine films.  Just nine films!  Darren Aronfsky has directed only five feature films since 1998 and Quentin Tarantino has directed only seven full feature films during his entire 19-year career.  And that’s counting the two Kill Bill films separately.  Can someone like Miike, who established his career by directing a new feature every other month, ever deserve consideration alongside such visionaries who have made their careers carefully and methodically crafting masterpieces?

As you can expect from a filmmaker who has been so prolific, the quality of Miike’s work has been fairly uneven. Miike has become known primarily for his “extreme” films, which have attracted a cult following in Western nations and established him as one of the most famous Japanese filmmakers in the world.  However, primarily due to his V-Cinema background, Miike has not been has highly acclaimed in his mother country, although the high profile 13 Assassins may be changing that.

If you are not familiar with Miike’s work, the best way to get a quick sampling of his work is to watch the insane opening sequence from his 1999 film DEAD OR ALIVE.  Warning, the following clip contains some seriously EXTREME footage.


In this 6-minute clip, you can see a lot of the best and worst of Takeshi Miike, but I have to say that overall, it is possibly his finest work to date.   This breathtaking sequence contains numerous Miike trademarks including the following:

1) Characters shamelessly breaking the fourth wall,

2) Ultra-violence (naked woman getting thrown from a building, arterial blood spray, anal rape) , and

3) The OH NO HE DIDN’T moments of Takeshi Miike insanity, which make you wonder how far he is willing to go.  In this intro sequence alone, you see one man snort a 30-foot line of cocaine and ramen noodles squirting out of a man’s stomach due to a shotgun blast.

Is Takeshi Miike a visionary or hack?  I’m not exactly sure, but if he is a visionary, he’s the definitely hackiest visionary in the world.

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3 comments

  1. Late Night · May 27, 2011

    I’m quite willing to give Takeshi Miike the title of visionary for that sequence alone!

    Great article, HS, and great clip. I saw “13 Assassins” at the 2010 AFI Fest, and I was expecting something a bit more extreme along the lines of “ICHII” and “AUDITION” so I was slightly disappointed.

    I had no idea that he made so many films (IMDB lists 84 titles!). 15 in 2001-2 alone? That sounds like a hell of a lot of fun to me. I am officially jealous of his life.

  2. HakSnider · May 28, 2011

    So would you not recommend 13 Assasins?

    • Late Night · May 28, 2011

      I would recommend 13 ASSASSINS as a high-energy period piece, certainly a cut above stuff like THE LAST SAMURAI, but with the caveat that the viewer shouldn’t go in expecting crazy stuff like ICHII. 13 ASSASSINS is more mainstream, but a solid movie for sure.

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