The second film in my first match-up in the second round of the 90s Far East Bracket begs the question, what the hell were you up to Miike?
Written By: Ichiro Ryu
Directed By: Takashi Miike
When I first read the description for Nihon Kuroshakai my initial thought was, “Uh oh, stupid Bill you gone and done it again. For a second time you’ve picked out a film that is a part of a trilogy without seeing the other films in the trilogy first!” I was calmed down when I read that Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy is a loose trilogy based on the themes of the films instead of any story or characters. My calm state quickly disappeared as I began to watch Nihon Kuroshakai. The new emotion that crept into my being was one of befuddlement, and a desire for Miike to do something or say something with this damn movie!
I shouldn’t say that Miike never did anything with Nihon Kuroshakai, it would make me a better and more truthful person to say that he never did anything that interested me that much. I kept waiting for something to happen that would pull me into this world, but that something never came. The issues Miike wanted to tackle felt so superficial and ultimately glossed over so quickly that they failed to gain any traction in the film or in my mind. When my entire viewing experience is a struggle to gain some sort of foothold in caring about a film then I’d say that the film in question just isn’t for me. And it pains me to say that as I have throughout many viewings become quite a fan of Miike.
That’s not to say that Nihon Kuroshakai is a movie without its merits. At times its cinematography is breathtaking, but at other times it is so dark that it becomes damn near impossible to decipher what is happening on the screen. As roujin point out in his first round review, Miike has a startling ability to frame a shot. Nihon Kuroshakai is full of many moments of excellent framing by Miike, but again this is undermined by his inability to make what happens after the framing interesting. The few interesting moments are provided by Miike being, well, Miike and that means him being weird. Once again, I agree with roujin in that the moments of Miike weirdness have a purpose, and I guess I also agree with roujin because I found that often while interesting those scenes felt like they were shock simply because Miike could shock.
All of this adds up to a frustrating film, a movie that had moments where I was going, “hmmm,” but many more moments where I had a bored or look of consternation on my face. As far as Miike goes there’s no doubt in my mind that Nihon Kuroshakai is a misfire, because the few good elements or moments are not enough to make up for the big ball of “I have no reason to care,” that is the majority of the film. I’m sure Miike completests will want to see Nihon Kuroshakai, and I know it is a film that has many admirers, but I’m not one of them.