Archive for the ‘Tichashi Miike film’ Category

Scorching the Retinas – First Love

First Love (2019)

first love poster art

Writer – Masa Nakamura
Director – Takashi Miike
Runtime – 108 minutes
Well Go USA Entertainment
Hanway Films
Recorded Picture Company

Takaschi Miike has made over one-hundred films. The “Centennial” was recently marked by his Samurai epic Immortal Blade. His work blankets many a genre, ranging from the bizarre (Visitor Q) to Crime epics (the Dead Alive trilogy, Ichi the Killer), Samurai features (overflowing with homage to the classics 13 Assassins is a must watch) to Yakuza films with many others scattered in between, one cannot seriously forget the cult hit Audition. In instances Miike’s films even veer toward the family friendly arena. First Love, the film in question here, is must definitely not of that variety (obviously parenting styles vary dramatically, let’s just say this isn’t a film I’d let my youngest lay eyes upon anytime soon).

(Trailer courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment)

In typical Miike fashion First Love commences on the “slow burn” train introducing quite brilliantly the myriad of the film’s most important characters, the antagonists the protagonists (who change places on a constant rotation) in turn, their relationships to each (in many cases there isn’t, until much later in the film) and the films realistic, every day, locations.

first-love locations

Here we see a spot of greenery in Tokyo as well a troubled girl and a boxer

Among the characters; the Yakuza, the Chinese Triad, a “troubled” girl who is forced to pay off her father’s debt, a promising boxer who has suddenly become unable to fight and a dirty cop. Somehow and in riotous fashion their paths collide. As one might assume, as this is a crime/gangster film of sorts drugs are involved and the majority of the film revolves around those involved trying to get their hands on the case within which the powder resides. With wrongful accusations and fingers being pointed, on assumptions not facts, paths cross at an alarming rate climaxing in the film’s final showdown which takes place in a hardware superstore (of sorts).

Without throwing spoilers around wily-nily, much like t-shirts from a cannon (designed for such purpose) at a ballgame, I’ll remark upon what makes First Love such an enjoyable watch.

First Love suited Yakuza

May I introduce the clean suited rank and file of the Tokyo Yakuza

Somehow, Miike has managed to blend brutal underworld Yakuza shenanigans with that of a darkly humorous nature which lends the film an air of relatable reality. After all, not all carefully laid plans go accordingly and such is the case here. Criminals (usually the same one each time time) blunder into situations predicting the outcome only to have all manner of calamity slip into the mix. Of several standout scenes (the whole film blazes with a quality which is mesmerizing) one includes a kidnapper with deviant penchants finding his come-uppance when his face meets a high heeled foot rather the aroma, he wished his nose to bath in (this will make sense upon watching). Another includes the abrupt dispatching of an elderly roommate who just happened to walk in upon a scene involving sedation and duct tape.

First love yuris dad

Strike a pose. Vogue.

The “troubled girl’ mentioned above, Yuri, adds to many of the films “funnier” moments. She suffers from hallucinations and believes her abusive father is following here. Obviously, that isn’t the humorous part. Moments of levity exist as her companions realize she’s disappeared and choose to chase after her throughout the film, in fact many of the reasons why the film takes such turns is the cause of her visions and her reactions to such. One scene finds her listening to music and snickering as she sees her Father dance along to the tunes in her head.

First Love kick to the balls

How dare you want to sniff my panties

Although the film shines with standout moments, of which there are plenty, the dialogue is top notch serving up quotes aplenty in situations ranging from the absurd to the harrowing and horrific. Character portrayal and the acting showcased here is superbly executed, a staple I’m glad to report which exists in all of the Miike features I’ve previously enjoyed. The film flows at a beautiful pace and stays from confusing/hard to comprehend realms even taking into account the vast coverage (and exploration) of characters and their paths in order to pull the story line to its conclusion.

The soundtrack is in need of mentioning and in typical Miike fashion fits wonderfully adding depth where it’s needed and tension where appropriate. Even the sudden inclusion and interruption by maniacal jazz elements (which might first appear odd and out of place) heightens the sense of the chaotic experience.

*** Local Caption *** Hatsukoi, TAKASHI Miike, Japan/GB 2019, V'19, Features

May I have your attention shoppers. Shit is about to go down in aisle B1.

Much like any gangster feature this one is also expectedly bloody, though it doesn’t glorify violence by depicting in unflinching detail the brutality taking place. Rather it handles it in a classy manner, many nodding towards the director’s adoration of remarkable historic and fiction-based samurai epics from years past. The action/fight scenes are tight, choreographed as not to be too fantastically outside the realm of possibility and are directed perfectly straying from lengths which might make the more jaded upon us salivate in excitement. The film even features ‘set pieces’ to expand upon the boxers back story to reiterate that he isn’t a superhero but rather an innocent bystander pulled into a situation which is wildly unfolding around him.

first love poster (japanese silk art print)

In conclusion, because I believe I could waffle on about what makes this film do damn watchable at great lengths, First Love is a film which demands respect, is more than worthy of the acclaim it’s garnering and is a must watch. A blurb on the films cover (courtesy of Indiewire) states “violent, hilarious and violently hilarious” A statement I wholeheartedly agree with though only wish were my words.

tichashi miike


In closing, do not be like me. Don’t let this be a film you place on a shelf and forget about.  It warrants eyes upon it and pronto. Bathe in the mastery of Miike. He’s, simply put, a genius of his craft.