Just a few months after premiering his 100th movie at Cannes, Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike has already completed his 101st. The prolific director unveiled his outlandish samurai epic “Blade of the Immortal” in May, and will follow that up with “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable – Chapter 1,” set to make its North American premiere at the 21st edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival on its opening night, July 13.
No other filmmaker on the planet cranks out movies with Miike’s regularity, and he shows no sign of slowing down. How does he do it?
Miike is best known in the West for his extreme genre efforts, particularly the gory “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer,” but he’s just as comfortable working in a range of other genres. Case in point: “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” is a live action adaptation of Hirohiko Kitakubo’s manga, which is just as familiar a mode for Miike. His 2011 family comedy “Ninja Kids!!!” was an exuberant live action anime adaptation, and it also arrived on the heels of a blood-soaked samurai epic that Miike directed the same year, “Hara-Kirki: Death of a Samurai.” He has also adapted anime and manga properties such as “Ace Attorney” and “Yatterman.”
The results are mixed, but that hasn’t slowed his momentum. Unlike the biggest commercial directors in America, Miike juggles a range of cinematic traditions with ease; even a lesser work is followed up by a reminder of his craftsmanship and vision.
It means something that Miike, who received Fantasia’s lifetime achievement award last year, returns to the program of this renowned, three-week-long genre festival, which will officially open with Cannes midnight hit “The Villainess,” and screen some 130 features from around the world. He’s simply unstoppable, and so adept at cranking out entertaining projects that they’re almost always bound to stand out. “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” follows a family of heroes with supernatural abilities that face a range of enemies. It looks more than a little bit ridiculous — and almost certainly self-aware. Whether or not the movie works for its intended audience — presumably diehard anime fans and virtually no one else — there’s no question that the 56-year-old filmmaker has tackled this assignment with the same degree of confidence found throughout his filmography. (Watch the subtitle-free trailer below.)
Miike launched his career on television, cranking out director-to-video releases that allowed him to explore a degree of creative freedom still found throughout his work. It also forced him to work very quickly, and his ongoing prolificacies suggest that he has turned his experience with those early deadlines into an asset: By working fast, Miike is never too far away from hitting the mark with something exciting and different. Where some filmmakers produce a dud and wind up in director’s jail, Miike never slows down to contemplate his next move.
“In every sense, Miike represents cinema without limits,” Fantasia’s longtime co-director Mitch Davis wrote me by email. “In terms of experimentation, in terms of boundary-pushing and in terms of a seemingly limitless range of styles and approaches from one production to the next. It’s just astonishing to think of the number of films he’s made now, and the fact that he’s showing no signs of exhausting his creative energy. He never stops working and yet he never phones it in.”
He also noted how much the filmmaker’s work has remained unclassifiable. “When you approach a new Miike film, you might get a thriller, a period drama, a horror film, a comedy, a Western, a musical, a romance, a children’s film, a crime story, a sci-fi work,” Davis wrote. “Truly anything is possible. Whichever genres he tackles, and frequently re-invents, combines and transcends, it’s immediately clear that you’re in the hands of a master storyteller who’s positively alive with inspiration and cinematic invention – and perhaps a good bit of the best kind of madness.”
The 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival runs July 13-August 2. For more information, go here.
Check out the rest of our weekly Film Festival Roundup on the next page.