KETR

With 'Blade Of The Immortal,' Director Takashi Miike Marks His 100th Film

Nov 11, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Would you like a little distraction? There's a new movie that's being described as one of the most over-the-top samurai movies ever made.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWORD BATTLE)

SIMON: It starts with the hero - not B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music - fighting off a hundred soldiers.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL")

SIMON: And it doesn't grow more subtle. NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us more. And a warning - it's a samurai film. There are depictions of violence in this story.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: "Blade Of The Immortal" is being celebrated as the 100th movie from a master of world cinema. Director Takashi Miike was born in Japan, and he averages about four movies a year - excessive, edgy, twisted, violent movies almost definitely unlike anything you've ever seen before. Grady Hendrix co-founded New York's Asian Film Festival. He's here with a few examples.

GRADY HENDRIX: There is the movie "Happiness Of The Katakuris," about a family that owns an inn and starts killing its guests. But that leaves out the fact that it's a musical, and part of it's done with Claymation.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing in Japanese).

HENDRIX: There's a movie like "Ichi The Killer," about a killer who is basically a simple-hearted, like, 11-year-old boy at heart. And that leaves out sort of the part where he cuts someone in half down the middle with his razor blade-heeled shoes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ICHI THE KILLER")

HENDRIX: There's "Audition," which is about a guy who's looking for a date. And that sort of leaves out the part where his date turns out to be insane and cuts off his feet.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AUDITION")

HENDRIX: I mean, his movies are so crazy. They really go there and don't just go there, but then they set there on fire and dance around in the ashes.

TAKASHI MIIKE: (Speaking Japanese).

ULABY: To commemorate his 100th film in 26 years, director Takashi Miike talked to NPR from Tokyo through a translator.

MIIKE: (Through interpreter) Personally, I enjoy being able to see something that you haven't seen before.

ULABY: Along with his famously hyperviolent crime movies, Miike's made serious documentaries, films for children, animated movies, shorts that play in Japanese shrines and other samurai movies. So with his 100th, what did he want to do that he had never done before?

MIIKE: (Through interpreter) I actually think it's the opposite. It's more like a mash-up of all that I've done before in this 100th movie that I've made.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWORD BATTLE)

ULABY: "Blade Of The Immortal" follows the adventures of a swordsman who does not have a family. He takes up with a little girl whose parents have been killed. Grady Hendrix says that's consistent for a director who likes to make films about outsiders.

HENDRIX: And that could be outsiders in terms of immigrants. His movies are famous for using multiple languages, for having actors of multiple ethnicities, which is kind of rare in Japanese filmmaking.

ULABY: Another thing "Blade Of The Immortal" has in common with the director's earlier works is, yes, the violence. The main character is immortal, so he's impossible to kill.

HENDRIX: He can be chopped up mutilated, hacked, slashed, half his arms and legs removed. But they'll always knit back together with great pain, of course.

ULABY: Director Takashi Miike says such ultraviolent scenes demand meticulously planned choreography and intense cooperation between everyone on set.

MIIKE: (Through interpreter) And that requires a lot of love from each of the cast and the crew. So in an interesting way, the more love you put into that violence scene, the more violent the scene actually appears on the movie.

ULABY: So consider yourself forewarned.

MIIKE: (Through interpreter) We made it with a lot of love.

ULABY: Meaning a lot of violence. Takashi Miike's 100th film is the latest to open in the U.S., but it's not the director's most recent? Since "Blade Of The Immortal" opened in Japan earlier this year, Miike has filmed two more movies. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.