Tom Mes, Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike (Fab, 2003)
Western audiences labored in blissful ignorance of the career of Takashi Miike for years. American and European extreme gore fans started noticing him with the release of Dead or Alive; the rest of the world snapped to attention when film festivals started showing such definitive Miike films as Rainy Dog, Audition, and Ichi the Killer. By now, Miike is Japanese culture's most recognizable export. However, we've gone from being completely ignorant to categorizing the director as a guy who does nothing but extreme gore (despite the brilliant The Happiness of the Katakuris, a twisted, and relatively gore-free, musical from 2001). Tom Mes, a dedicated film festival-goer and Miike fan, aims to show us there's more to the guy than promotional vomit bags (which were handed out to those attending the premiere of Ichi the Killer at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival).
In the bulk of the book, Mes takes the reader through Miike's prolific oeuvre (to give you an idea of just how prolific, since Mes stopped documenting to publish, with Deadly Outlaw: Rekka, released in mid-2002, Miike has released ten films as of this writing), tracing the various themes to be found in the director's work. Rest assured, Mes is not a fanboy; he casts a rather critical eye over a number of Miike's films. The effect is for the reader to want even more to see a number of Miike's films not yet available outside Asia, for the most part (Ley Lines draws the most praise, for example, of any film in the oeuvre, with The Bird People in China, Rainy Dog, and The Guys from Paradise also getting a lot of positive play; of them, only Rainy Dog is available in the west, and that only in Britain, according to IMDB). The book is rounded out with Miike's filming diary for Ichi the Killer, a long interview Mes conducted with Miike in 2002, and some biographical info on the man.
Needless to say, this book is a must for fans of Miike's movies, and is well worth the steep price it commands. Those who consider Miike an amusement might also do well to dip in and take a look at the structures that underlie the outrageousness Miike depicts on film. Definitely a book worth having for even the most casual fan. ****