By Tom Mes
Fab Press, 2003, 405 pgs.
Reviewed by Mark Schilling
A book on Takashi Miike's career may seem premature -- the man is still in his prime and
releasing a new film every other month, but Tom Mes makes a good case for such a
survey in "Agitator -- The Cinema of Takashi Miike." Covering Miike's first 49 films, as
well as TV series and other miscellaneous work, the book views Miike as, not simply a
wild man and agent provocateur -- his current reputation in the West -- but an auteur with
continuing themes and concerns, who deserves more serious attention than he usually
Essentially a director-for-hire, who usually shoots the script he is given on an impossibly
tight schedule, Miike has nonetheless managed to produce film after film with a
distinctive blend of sex and violence that is blackly funny, bizarrely imaginative and, yes,
outright revolting. ("Ichi the Killer" has perhaps the best examples of the last quality, but
there are many others.)
Mes's scene-by-scene analysis details exactly how Miike achieves -- or occasionally fails
to achieve -- this mix. Also, instead of falling into fan boy raving, Mes quite clearly
separates the gold from the (mostly early) dross. If anything, he overdoes the close
analysis on slight genre product that can hardly bear the critical weight.
Complete with a biography, career interview and detailed filmography, "Agitator" is an
extensively researched, cinematically literate, highly welcome addition to the slim shelf
of books on contemporary Japanese films. And in ten years I'm sure we'll see another
volume by Mes on the next fifty Miikes -- give or take a couple dozen.