Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Haru Ena
With Kenichi Endo, Shungiku Uchida, Kazushi Watanabe, Shoko Nakahara and Fujiho
Distributed by Media Blasters
While AUDITION showed that Miike can create a beautiful film if he wants to, VISITOR Q looks deliberately cruddy. Shot in a week for $70,000 and shown on video, it's never been transferred to film. A lengthy catalogue of violations - bullying, rape, drug addiction, necrophilia, domestic violence - it chronicles one family's struggle to use them as a means of self-actualization. Dad (Endo) is haplessly making a documentary on the sad state of Japan: at one point, his subjects use the microphone as a dildo and shove it up his ass. (It's a repeated image in Miike's work: the director himself does it with a karaoke microphone in his recent AGITATOR.) The son (Nakahara) beats up Mom (Shungiku), giving her a permanent limp and scars on her back. She turns to heroin to dull the pain. Then a silent stranger (Watanabe), who likes hitting people over the head with rocks shows up, and everything slowly changes for the better.
In AUDITION, Miike seemed completely in control of his tone and narrative, modulating carefully from naturalism to hallucinatory surrealism to hall-of-nightmares. On the other hand, I've been disappointed by the uneven quality of ICHI THE KILLER and DEAD OR ALIVE. Both films alternate between eye-popping set pieces and long, dull stretches. DEAD OR ALIVE peaks in its opening 10 minutes, while ICHI THE KILLER wears out its welcome at 130. It took me a while to realize this, but VISITOR Q is a better piece of storytelling than either film. While it's hardly as challenging as AUDITION, it's far more consistent than ICHI THE KILLER and DEAD OR ALIVE, integrating loose handheld camerawork into a tight, slow-building narrative framework.
Even at their most grotesque, Miike's films aren't devoid of morality
or "socially redeeming value." After DEAD OR ALIVE opens with a brain-bursting
montage of cheap thrills that makes TRAINSPOTTING or the Prodigy's "Smack
My Bitch Up" video look like SHREK, it goes on to explore Sino-Japanese
relations. Meathook/boiling oil torture side aside (a difficult task),
ICHI THE KILLER delves into a masochist's quest for sexual happiness. VISITOR
Q shows a family slowly coming to terms with its perversity: Mom discovers
a new source of pleasure, while eventually bonding with her husband.
In its own way, it's a loving satire of the diversity of family life. Not
to mention finding a constructive use for smack.