Atrocity Exhibition

The Walker confers auteur status on Tokyo bad boy Takashi Miike

An early scene establishes the three-dimensional cruelties of Miike's universe. While a thug beats and rapes his girlfriend, he's startled by a noise at the window: the sound of a furtive masturbator getting off on the show. What kind of person would watch such a thing--I mean, besides us? Ichi the killer, that's who--a character whose title card rises from a puddle of semen. The girlfriend will spend the movie bouncing from beating to beating; the thug will get a Stride Rite bisection; and Ichi will remain haunted by memories of a schoolgirl's rape that he was powerless to prevent (or join?). As Ichi and Kakihara draw closer, limbs fly, bloody geysers spew, and pain and violence become all that's left of love and sex.

Miike's most indefensible showstoppers (two words: nipple slicings) are exactly that. But would we really want to accept everything the director throws at us? If we did, we'd either be just like Ichi, jacking off to the world's horrors, or, even worse, we'd feel nothing. In a perverse way, films as severe as Ichi--or the merrily nihilistic Fudoh (Wednesday, June 4 at 8:00 p.m.), with its schoolgirl assassins, Cub Scout killers, and shock-value brinkmanship--help us realign our moral compasses by getting us lost.

The flip side of Miike's gore-hound exhibitionism is a backhanded but unironic regard for the nuclear family, celebrated in the daft The Happiness of the Katakuris (Thursday, June 5 at 8:00 p.m.). Surely the first movie musical to open with a claymation imp snatching a woman's uvula, Katakuris concerns a luckless clan whose woebegone country inn gets a boost from customers who quickly turn up dead. Miike's movies are frequently less than the sum of their wild set pieces, and Katakuris is at once the most fanciful and uneven of his movies to screen in the United States. Even so, its production numbers of floating lovers and chorus-line corpses--Stanley Donen, meet George Romero--are grounded in a basically affectionate portrait of family resilience.

Shock and...ah: Miike's 'Fudoh: The New Generation'
GAGA Communications
Shock and...ah: Miike's 'Fudoh: The New Generation'

So, too, are the jawdropping outrages of Visitor Q (Friday, June 6 at 8:00 p.m.), the most divisive film in the series--and, to this sick bastard's mind, the funniest. A comedy of degradation and renewal, equal parts Man Bites Dog, Pasolini's Teorema, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the movie begins with a garish cartoon of a troubled household: Bullied teenage son smacks around Mom, who's hooked on smack; newscaster Dad starts out interviewing his schoolgirl-hooker daughter for a social exposé and winds up screwing her on camera. (It goes better than his previous foray into youth activism, which ends when a teenage gang rams his microphone up his ass on live TV.)

Into their lives comes a mysterious visitor who conks Dad with a rock, sends Mom into sprays of orgasmic eruption, and inspires the household's miserable members to resume their traditional roles in the family. All ends happily ever after, thanks to the single most disgusting plot twist of this newborn century. It is impossible to defend except as the ultimate provocation of a director who sees the goriest, ghastliest extremes of human nature as steam rattling the lid of sweet domestic mundanity--a lid that could blow at any second. In the dangerous cinema of Takashi Miike, the family that slays together stays together.

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