Oh Ichi, Ichi. One of the things that keeps being brought up in Exploration Disturbia is the confusion between something that is very gory and something that is very disturbing. While the two can be mixed obviously, disturbing films have the power to stick with you a bit longer. Not in the whenever you are feeling nauseous you picture Cerina Vincent shaving off her legs kind of way though. It's more of a physical disruption that prevents you from feeling...well, sane. While Ichi the Killer has its moments of being shocking, notably with the physical violence and raping of women--it doesn't quite disturb me. I'm not exactly sure why this is but perhaps I'll come to an answer by the end of my blabbing...here's hoping.
I will start by saying that I, like many others out there was very surprised that the man on the front of the Ichi cover, is not Ichi the killer. For some reason, I wish someone had told me this sooner as the first few minutes were very confusing for me. Of course, many believe that this is intentional--associating Kakihara with the name Ichi but I think it is more likely that Kakihara is just a better poster boy for a movie as crazy as this. Although I think an awesome poster for the film would be picture of Ichi crying and looking pathetic, but that's just me.
Based on the manga series of the same name, Ichi the Killer centers around a gang and its lead enforcer Kakihara, a man whose life motto seems to be "Make them die slowly" or "Punch me, bitch". He is a man obsessed with the duality of pleasure and pain and on a massive hunt to find the person responsible for the disappearance of the gang's boss, Anjo. After finding several dead ends, Kakihara soon learns that a man named Ichi is responsible. Ichi leaves a very bloody trail behind him causing Kakihara to be both excited and scared of meeting him.
The film also however centers on Ichi, who to everyone's surprise looks like some wimpy kid. As we find in the opening moments of the film however, this wimpy kid has a complex history of violence and arousal. Ejaculating when both watching violence and inflicting it, Ichi is like Kakihara without restraint. As the two stories intertwine and finally connect, we find that Ichi and Kakihara are just a small part of this very shocking, brutal and provocative world.
Asian films and I seldom get along, although what I've been finding is that my main dislike with Asian cinema comes from ghost stories. Every other Asian film that did not center on the creepy and supernatural I ended up loving--The Host, Suicide Club, Noriko's Dinner Table, and now Ichi, so that ends that conflict(OH but I should note that Hausu is the one exception as that movie is in a class by itself). Anywho I came away really enjoying Ichi which was a surprise to me. The general consensus of people was that Ichi was largely the kind of gross out gore that I find myself hating. This is true--but in Ichi's case, the gore plays a much more important role than all those other mindless gore fests. It's an integral part of the story and the themes and for that--I honor it.
A few words about the gore though--while some of it is rather difficult to withstand, there's another aspect of it that is ultimately cartoonish.
It was an interesting mix but one thing whether cartoonish or not was that the gore was extremely invasive.
This is I think, what separates a Takashi Mike film from most others. Things are shoved in our face, and things are shown to us up close and personal. It's an entirely unforgiving sort of violence that almost leaves you feeling ashamed for not being able to look away. Not just in the gore sense either. The title screen for instance is an up close and personal shot of semen. According to Takashi Mike that was real semen. That is gross. I like to think I have a pretty open mind about things, but real semen or rather real bodily fluids...is gross. Before the title screen we even got to see a plant dripping with Ichi's semen. Like seriously, dripping. This is what I mean by invasive. It's a kind of stuff that is seldom done in the good old US of A. And is certainly something that keeps your eyes wide.
I mean there is some shit in this. We're talking nipples being sliced off, huge needles being shoved through all parts of peoples bodies,
people suspended from hooks on their back,
hot oil dumped on people, and razor boots reeking serious havoc on peoples arteries.
Plus, some raping and beating and faces being pulled off (which is NOT one of the cartoonish elements I should say). Yes, Ichi the Killer is very graphic. It's possibly the one film out of hundreds that like to give people free barf bags, where the barf bag might actually be necessary.
And then on the other side of all this is that fact that Ichi the Killer really makes you think. The ending is enough to keep some theorizing for days, and to keep others eternally confused. What really happens up there on the roof? A simple explanation is really all that you need. I like to think of Ichi the Killer as a sort of Dread Pirate Roberts scenario. A passing of the torch if you will. Thinking in these respects makes things a bit easier to swallow. Unless of course you decide to believe in a much more complex theory and one that involved the inevitable we are all a killer kind of thing.
In any case, I truly enjoyed Ichi the Killer. The characters were all interesting and I found myself particularly enlightened by the mere presence and layering involved with Kaneko.
If I was one of those super cool scholars of film people, I would write a paper on him. However I hate writing papers so I won't--but just know this, the man is insanely interesting to me. Let's do a case study some time.
I was also tickled pink by the outrageous costume choices of Kakihara. The man may be a sadomasochist maniac, but he sure can put an outfit together. And he does it all without leaking a spot of blood on his stark white shoes. Oh! And how could I forget that this movie is also at times hilarious. The final confrontation with Ichi and Kakihara especially made me laugh out loud (for real) several times.
So in conclusion, Ichi the Killer is the surprise hit of the week. It is at once a multi-layered, thought provoking film with some of the goriest sequences I've ever seen. All this and some truly great camera work and character development makes Ichi the Killer, the kind of movie you can't stop thinking about. I feel like I've barely made a dent in all there is to talk about. I haven't even mentioned Ichi's complex history and the implications of his "sickness". I haven't even brought up Jijii and what the fuck was up with that strip down. And of course, I've barely mentioned the women in this. Women who all curiously seem to be prostitutes....man is this film interesting. I think I'll just go sit somewhere and think. So there we have it--because I can't stop thinking about it, is it disturbing? Or can I not stop thinking about it because it just may be too damn intelligent? Yikes, this may go into over time.