EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW | Takashi Miike: “Genre Cinema? I don’t care what it is”

Great japanese director opens up about Yakuza, Genre Cinema and his new movie, First Love,

Tkashi Miike
Action! Takashi Miike on the set of First Love.

MACAO – Takashi Miike has made some of the most extreme films in Japanese cinema. Whether its the torture horror of Audition, the Yakuza splatter of Ichi the Killer or the bloodsoaked genius of the Samurai film Thirteen Assassins, Miike has for decades dominated Japanese genre filmmaking and become a one-man powerhouse with over one hundred features to his name. I met Takashi Miike in Macao to discuss his new film First Love, in Cinemas & Digital HD from 14th February and Blu-ray & DVD 24th February.  It’s a violent crime caper featuring corrupt cops, dodgy drug dealers, Yakuza gangs and a boxer with a brain tumour who decides his last act is going to be to save a doomed young girl from the hell her life has become.

Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike’s First Love

I asked Takashi Miike what attracted him to the film: «This is a film has hope and that is so beautiful to me. It is a film that looks forward to the next generation, the next life the next people. They make a kind of love, a pure love. They make a new kind of love. This is my own love story. It’s very different from other movies that’s why I call it special» said.

Takashi Miike
Yakuza squad

The Yakuza is a familiar theme for you. What fascinates you about them?

The Yakuza are always called the bad guys and people hate them, right? But I want to respect them as human beings. People love the Yakuza in this movie, because the Yakuza are also ordinary people who can also change. Even in one night. This is a kind of admiration I have for them. It is a miraculous thing that the Yakuza can change. The one thing I can do is express this admiration through this film.

Takashi Miike
Masataka Kubota and Sakurako Konishi

You also include boxing in the movie with your young lead Masataka Kubota playing Leo, a boxer who thinks he is going to die because of a brain tumor and this gives him the courage to intervene and save a girl he doesn’t know. Is boxing important to you?

For myself, boxing is a very fascinating topic. In Japan we lost World War Two and after that we were very poor. We built up our society again and based our social status after the war on things like boxing, fighting, competing. Many Japanese boxers won their status through fighting. And for every one who won, there were many boxers who stood behind the winners, who were fighting too. One boxer would win one bout and the next bout he would lose. It wasn’t secure. It was a very unstable kind of existence. But boxing was a sport that the Japanese people liked for many years. It kind of sparkles. A boxer can win a fight but his humanity might suffer. This is an important point for me. Now that Japan is rich with a high status in the world and yet there are still boxers in Japan, why are boxers still fighting in Japan?

Takashi Miike
A still from Takashi Miike’s First Love

I wondered if there was an influence from the Ken Takakura Yakuza films. Takakura is familiar to Western audiences via Sidney Pollack’s The Yakuza and Ridley Scott’s Black Rain, but was also the star of many classic Japanese Yakuza films.

To put it simply in Japan, Yakuza films were central to films in the sixties and seventies. Yakuza films brought in huge audiences and had a lot of influence on Japanese cinema. And Ken Takakura was certainly a big star in that period. The people of a certain age – forty or fifty years old – everyone knows Ken Takakura and even now young people will also rediscover his movies, and especially the Yakuza films. These things then naturally influenced me.

Takashi Miike
A very strange fight in Takashi Miike’s First Love

You have made over 100 films. How do you decide what genre to take on next?

There are some genres like horror films and Yakuza films that are needed by audiences. They really demand them. So I’m happy to make those films. Personally, I don’t care what the genre of my movie is. Maybe some audiences will like horror movies, but then they’ll change and watch something else. A horror movie can also have something in it that is funny or interesting that has nothing to do with the horror. So I don’t care what the genre is. The reason I film so many films is because I am not tied to any particular genre so I’m free to explore.

Reporting from the 4th International Macao Film Festival and Awards. The festival runs from the 5th to the 10th of December 2019.

Signature Entertainment presents First Love in Cinemas & Digital HD from 14th February and Blu-ray & DVD 24th February

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Take a look at Takashi Miike’s First Love official trailer

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