Monday, October 22, 2007

BEEM, 2nd place: DOA (Dead Or Alive)

[Best Editing in an Exploitation Movie Award]

"I know everything about this city; I came to Japan before you were born, cooking here at this stove . . . but even after 5,000 years, each day, a different flavor. Can you understand that?"

DOA, 1999, brought together for the first time Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi, the two undisputed kings of Japanese V-Cinema. Takashi Miike, the greatest director of Japanese exploitation cinema (delivering examplary films in all exploitation categories short of straight-up pornography) has made better movies, perhaps, but none quite so excessive and exploitative. In fact, despite the thoughtful story and potent drama, it's hard to imagine DOA as anything other than a straight-to-video release. The sheer audacity of the imagery (a businessman snorting a 25 foot line of cocaine, a Sesame Street bird costume at a yakuza birthday party, a graveyard in the sand, a bonfire of bodies on a roof in the middle of Tokyo) strips the viewer of any lingering demand for realism, leaving him exposed to the emotional conflict which underlies the excess.

Thematically, the film explores the same subject as all of Miike's films: familial obligation and dynamics. In this case, the dedicated cop Aikawa's akward and tentative relationship with his sickly daughter and untrusting wife is contrasted with the "healthy" familial relationship exemplified by (Miike and "Beat" Takeshi regular) Susumu Terajima (who, curiously, tends to play "bad cop" when the duo interacts with criminals) on the one hand, and the strained fraternity exemplified by Takeuchi's relationship with his younger brother on the other. Takeuchi exemplifies another Miike theme, the dispossessed: in this case, as so often, embodied by 2nd generation Chinese youth in Japan, forced to bond together against both the Japanese and the 1st generation Chinese immigrants who dominate the criminal underworld. Takeuchi will stop at nothing (quite literally!) to force the other gangs out of business; Aikawa, likewise, refuses to accept the ensuing criminal rampage. The ultimate face-off between these twin stars of exploitation cinema may be disappointing from a plot standpoint, but faithfully delivers the sheer energy and violence demanded by the preceding 90 min. of this sonnet to excess.

the trailer for DOA:

memorable editing moment: DOA begins with an absolutely mind-blowing 7 min. montage, an exemplary microcosm of plot construction. Like a shotgun blast in reverse, numerous fragmentary images (a stripper falling from a 12-storey building, police beating a schoolgirl, a businessman snorting a 25 ft. line, a gangster assassinated while fucking a rentboy in a public toilet, the blood from his severed carotid spraying the tile wall and his orgasming partner equally, a bare-chested stripper, a shotgun hidden in a clown's bicycle basket, a cascade of noodles exploding out of a Triad's stomach as it dissolves under uzi spray) coalesce into larger and larger chunks until a coherent plot emerges: one gang attempts a takeover of another to the chagrin of the dedicated cops.

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