A contemporary of such noted film experimentalists as Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man ), maverick Japanese workhorse director Takashi Miike became one of the most talked about filmmakers in the international festival circuit after taking audiences on kinetically unhinged and frequently disturbing joyrides as Dead or Alive (2000) and Ichi the Killer (2001). Despite the derailed manic energy of the aforementioned films, it was the stark relationship drama turned sadistic nightmare Audition that found the director receiving increasing international exposure. With its quiet menace and decidedly humanized horror, Audition succeeded in pulling the rug from under viewers as it turned the age-old image of the submissive Japanese female on its head with a shocking and nearly unbearable finale that had many horrified viewers shell-shocked. Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1960, Miike's family originally descended from his grandmother's birthplace of Kumamoto, South Kyushu. Due to his family's nomadic moves following World War II (his grandmother was living in Korea when Japan was defeated), Miike spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Osaka. Though youthful dreams of becoming a motorbike racer proved a powerful draw in his early years, the somewhat poor student eventually opted to study filmmaking at the Yokohama Academy of Visual Arts. Founded by noted Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura, the school proved a lucrative endeavor that helped Miike to focus his youthful energy into a powerfully creative medium - despite the fact that it took him nearly a decade to graduate. Inspired more by Bruce Lee than Seijun Suzuki, Miike's distinctive style came more as a result of not studying the traditional rules of filmmaking than a conscious attempt to break them. Frequently shooting on budgets that wouldn't cover an American movie set's craft services tab, and often preferring to shoot on 16 mm or digital video as opposed to traditional 35 mm film, Miike's freeform style can find his films taking numerous unexpected turns during production. Miike views himself more as an arranger than an author, and his willingness to let a film develop on its own path and constant encouragement of actors and other crew members to flex their creative muscles has resulted in some of the most dynamic films of the last decade. His refusal to succumb to the traditional temptation to produce a film that will please the masses has also been a key factor in the development of his distinctive style, and further refusal to bend to widely accepted narrative structure has earned him both harsh critics and a fiercely loyal fan base. Though critics have pegged him as a genre filmmaker, Miike is reluctant to accept that distinction and prefers not to categorize his films as it may limit their appeal and impact. Miike's films are also frequently targeted for their excessive and often gratuitous violence, though the director sites that the inherent honesty in that violence is more sincere than what he feels is his contemporaries' romantic misrepresentation of current culture, viewing cinema as an important outlet for such images. Following his directorial debut in 1991, Miike turned out an exhausting 24 films (including two television miniseries) between 1999 and 2002, confirming his status as one of the busiest directors in world cinema. And though Miike may not be a household name, the release of such enticingly quirky and curious efforts as the comedy/musical/horror The Happiness of the Katakuris hints at big things in store for the tireless auteur.
Biography by Jason Buchanan
- Considered riding motorbikes professionally before deciding to attend film school.
- Got his start in the industry by directing V-Cinema (direct-to-video) films in Japan.
- Debut feature film was the 1995 crime drama Shinjuku Triad Society.
- Ranked 10th on Time magazine's 1997 list of the most promising directors in the world.
- Filmed more than 50 TV-movies and theatricals between 1995 and 2005.
- First English-speaking role was in Hostel (2005).
- His contribution to Showtime's Masters of Horror anthology, Imprint (2005), was deemed too graphic to air on the cable channel and was only released on the DVD collection.
- Though he's best known for his violent and sexually perverse works, Miike directs films from a wide range of genres, including teen dramas, comedies and children's movies.