by Jason Suzuki
If you fire a machine gun at a target you’re guaranteed at least one bulls eye. That is an adage often applied to filmmaker Takashi Miike, and to other filmmakers who put out a movie a year like Woody Allen. Unlike Allen though, Miike does multiple films a year to varying quality. What’s not accounted for is the strength of the Miike’s source material. Arguably one of his strongest works, Audition showcases Miike’s restraint, which doesn’t get much attention, and his abandon of it, which gets all the attention, all in one film. The film comes from a novel written by Coin Locker Babies author Ryu Murakami who I think is a strong writer.
In 2014 Miike came out with three films, all adaptations. Two were from manga and the other from a classic kabuki play. One of these manga adaptations, Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, while very fun at times, feels almost an hour too long thanks to the subplot requirements due to its manga origins and the need of those involved in a film’s production committee to please fanboys. With Over Your Dead Body Miike adapts a classic play, Yotsuya Kaidan, one done so many times in previous films. But from this been-there-done-that source, Miike has fun turning it into an onstage/offstage piece where the characters’ personal lives start to mirror that of the play they are acting in. Still sounds tired? Well what if the majority of the film is the play? We watch excerpts from the performance infused with distant subtext in relation to the non-play characters. We are not just watching a performance of Yotsuya Kaidan but actors putting it on, trapped in whether they are recreating the story or whether the play is just mimicking their lives.
Miike has had recent experience directing a kabuki stage play, which he brings to this film. Over Your Dead Body has all the best qualities of Miike’s work, it constantly fires on all cylinders of what he can do well and mixes them all. His restraint and his knack for extreme violence are showcased in the film. It feels brisk as intellectually you need to be constantly catching up, he tells two parallel tales while showing really only one. Easily his best film since Ninja Kids!!! another film that adapts to become a hyrbrid original/adapted work instead of one that does neither.
Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.