Takashi Miike, along with 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano and Ring director Hideo Nakata, is one of the very few contemporary Japanese directors whose name is well known among mainstream western cinema-goers. The global acclaim which he received for Audition, coupled with western video/DVD releases of Dead or Alive , Visitor Q and Fudoh: The New Generation , has made western audiences aware that Miike is something special.
Born on 24th August 1960 in Osaka, Miike's early ambition was to be a motor mechanic, and his interest in engines saw him become a successful amateur motorbike racer. But the complications of achieving a professional racing license, coupled with a poor grasp of the mathematics essential to be a good engineer, led to a drift away from this interest. A radio advert for Yokohama Hoso Eiga Senmon Gakko (Yokohama Vocational School of Broadcast and Film) caught his attention and, since there was no entrance exam, he duly applied.
But Miike was uninterested in the artistic side of film-making and paid as little attention at film college as he had in high school, frequently cutting classes. Eventually, by chance, he landed a job as replacement assistant director on an episode of the TV series Black Jack , and from there started to gain other TV credits, up to 30 or 40 shows a year for seven years. "I actually preferred working in television over working in film," he says. "All these intellectuals are at the filming locations for theatrical release movies. And they consider it the 'real thing.' I had rebellious feelings that, despite their attitudes, they weren't making anything good. And besides, TV shows get more viewers."
Miike's first feature film credit was as AD on Zegen , directed by Shohei Imamura, dean of the Yokohama School, in 1987. Four years later he gave up his TV work when he made the movie to First AD on Hideo Onchi's Shimanto-gawa , and later that same year he took on directorial duties for the first time. "I did my job, I worked hard on whatever was assigned to me," he says. "But I never went out to find work for myself. I wasn't really trying to make a career for myself."
Miike's films are usually violent in a way which is over the top yet rarely strays into comedy (unless deliberately so, as in the hilariously dark The Happiness of the Katakuris ) because each film has a twisted internal logic to which it adheres. But it is not violence, or horror, or gangsters which define a Takashi Miike films: four films as different as, say, Audition , Fudoh , Visitor Q and The Happiness of the Katakuris it would be difficult to imagine, yet there are recognisable similarities which define them as part of Miike's oeuvre: family is an important element of his films, along with a view of modern Japan as a multicultural society, and an attitude to violence which sometimes betrays his love of Monty Python but is all the more horrific for being played straight. "I want to shoot violent scenes, but not action scenes," he says. "The blood and pain makes it more real to the audience. Hollywood can make nice, violent movies, but I can't. In my films, people are like monsters or beasts. Their violence is extreme but at least honest." In addition, Miike plays with form and structure, often using the editing suite to jump around the time and space in which each film is set. … Expand