Volume 21, Issue 3 / March 2017
Twenty Years of Takashi Miike at the Fantasia International Film Festival
In this issue
This issue is dedicated entirely to the cinema of Takashi Miike on the occasion of his first ever appearance at the Fantasia International Film Festival to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award during the festival’s 20th anniversary last summer. Over the last 20 years Fantasia has presented no less than 33 Miike films, more than double even closest runner up Johnnie To. Of course this feat has only been possible because of Miike’s unusual level of productivity, churning out an average of 4 films per year since his theatrical debut in 1995. Even when Fantasia is committed to presenting every new film by a festival favourite, other directors simply don’t produce enough films to reach those numbers. But this statistic also indicates Miike’s unusual level of compatibility with the festival’s goals, and an adaptability with those goals as the festival has changed along with Miiike’s own output over the years. Miike makes films that suit Fantasia’s programming style, a style that has broadened considerably since its early days as a strictly Asian genre festival. Programming Fudoh in the second year of Fantasia’s commitment to outrageous Asian cinema was a no-brainer. And as Fantasia gained notoriety beyond the community of Montreal fans, so too was Miike catching the world’s attention with films like Audition, Dead or Alive, and Ichi the Killer. But where does a rather straight comedy like Shangri-La, art-house fare like Big Bang Love, or big studio horror like One Missed Call fit into the Fantasia puzzle? The programming of films like these over the years speaks to Fantasia’s own evolution, opening to international entries well beyond Asia, broadening the genres to which its “genre festival” status is committed, and developing deeper ties with industry through various partnership initiatives. For better or worse, Fantasia is no longer strictly in the “audience festival” category that earned it the notorious fan-base that remains faithful to this day. Arguably, it is not strictly a “genre” festival anymore either. It is now on the map for industry as a great showcase for films in search of distribution and to cut the next development deal. And Miike is no longer strictly an “audience” filmmaker either, shifting by necessity through different areas of Japan’s film industry, remaining open to whatever kind of work might come his way in defiance of more traditional auteurist tendencies that marked his first five years embedded predominantly within the Yakuza genre. Some of us still pine for millennial Miike and the days of Fantasia’s $75 all-access passes and short VIP lines. But we do so to our own detriment. Miike’s presence at Fantasia’s 20th anniversary speaks to the successes of filmmaker and festival alike, surviving the often brutal environment of both ends of the film industry with verve.
In this issue we document Miike’s big Fantasia weekend along with a look back at the long and winding road traveled to get here. We begin with Offscreen editor-in-chief Donato Totaro and regular contributors Randolph Jordan and Peter Rist in conversation with Miike along with highlights from his award presentation and Q+A sessions. Rist and Jordan have also compiled the definitive filmography for Miike’s films at Fantasia, complete with digital scans of the catalogue entries for all 33 films presented at the festival from 1997 to 2016. Rist then offers new commentary on five of Miike’s most memorable films to have screened at Fantasia, and Jordan revisits his past coverage of Miike’s festival entries since he began writing for Offscreen in 2001. Finally, Jordan rounds out the issue with a previously unpublished essay on the use of sound in Bird People of China, the film that brought Miike to the author’s attention at a screening in Vancouver one year before he moved to Montreal and discovered Fantasia in 1999. And if Miike’s promise to remain as prolific over the next 20 years holds true, we’ll have a whole lot more write about in the years to come. Enjoy! – (Randolph Jordan, guest editor)