City of Lost Souls
2000, NR, 100 min. Directed by Takashi Miike. Starring Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Koji Kikkawa, Patricia Manterola, Michelle Reis, Teah.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 9, 2002
Let's start out by saying that Takashi Miike's graphically violent Japanese actioners are not everyone's cup of sake. But if you can handle the bloodshed, Miike's films will open your eyes to the number of ways it can spurt, splat, and drizzle out of a whole variety of natural human orifices and man-made bullet holes. More than a prosaic gorehound though, Miike is one of the most inventive, enthusiastic, daring, and natural-born filmmakers at work anywhere in the world today. This prolific director averages three to four features per year, and each work seems an attempt to top his previous effort. City of Lost Souls was made in 2000, and although it's not one of his most “extreme” efforts it might also make a fairly good introduction to what this guy's movies are all about. This movie's plot is relatively easy to follow and his excesses don't go too far overboard -- although in the eyes of his admirers this might make City of Lost Souls one of his lesser efforts. The movie exists in a warring Tokyo criminal milieu in which factions of the Japanese yakuza, Chinese triads, and Russian mafia all mix it up. At the heart of the story is the Brazilian-Japanese Mario (Teah) who is trying to escape Japan with his Chinese love Kei (Reis). In the film's riveting opening sequence (a Miike trait), Mario stages a daring helicopter rescue of Kei, who is being deported. They then hide out among the rag-tag Brazilian community in Tokyo while waiting to secure the means of escape. Along the way we witness Miike's startling display of underworld sights -- a dwarf brushing his teeth with cocaine, death by ping-pong ball, bizarre computer-generated cockfights (which must be seen to be believed), toilet-bowl beatings, an S&M-obsessed ganglord, and so much more. And love? It proves to be the deadliest thing of all. Takashi Miike has been called many things from “outlaw” filmmaker and “emerging artist” to several less complimentary epithets. City of Lost Souls is a good place to discover your own take on this rough-and-ready Japanese rebel.