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I fancy myself as someone with a broad range of tastes, and someone who is willing to go through a lot of emotional and visual assault to understand and absorb the stranger movies out there. Call me a masochist if you want, but i do find movies like "The Exorcist", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Audition" or "Scarlet Diva" extremely rewarding in the end, in spite of their strong ability to tear apart one's heart and soul by savagely attacking our most primordial, most basic emotions and feelings.... even beliefs. I am willing, and able, to look beyond the first assault and try to understand what the director and the crew tried to accomplish. Interestingly too, some of the most violent and offensive movies are also some of the most personal movies: they represent the intellectual and emotional work of mainly one person, materialized in something, in this case, a movie. They are "auteur" movies in the purest sense of the word, and owe a lot to the French New Wave which highlighted the concept and pushed it to the extreme. But i do have a deeper respect for those artists who can explore the darkest parts of the human soul.
Well, "Visitor Q" is the first movie that shocked me beyond anything i had ever seen, to the point where i had to turn it off about an hour into it. I don't remember ever having to do so while watching a movie. I really love the work of Takeshi Miike and he has given me many hours of pure enjoyment even though his movies, since the first one, always carried a strong dose of insanity. Well, here, he overdoes himself once again, and simply falls over the edge of "acceptable" (note the quotes, since this is a highly subjective statement) artistic insanity. Scene after scene, the movie is carefully shot, written, architected, to touch on the most taboo subjects in modern society, and press all the buttons even the most blaze could have. This is deliberate from Miike, and in this respect, this movie is extremely well done. Nothing is left to chance. This is film-making at its most precise level.
"Visitor Q" is the story of a failure of a reporter who hopes to make it big by creating a documentary on the modern-day violence among the youth. He films, from a distance, his 13 years old son being violently bullied and sexually humiliated at school. The son takes revenge by beating up his mother to the blood on a regular basis. The daughter left home and prostitutes herself, and sleeps with her father for extra money. The mother also prostitutes herself in order to finance her heroin habit. We are treated to graphical displays of incest and heroin shots. While filming a scene of his documentary, the dad gets upset at his assistant and kills her, brings her back home to chop her up to dispose of her body, but in the middle of doing so, gets excited and we get some necrophilia... That was too much for me and that's when i quit. And believe me when i say that this is all i can write down, and that the movie is a hundred times more disturbing than what this review might let transpire.
I need to watch this again when i have the energy and try to understand. Miike here definitely has a message about how the family unit has become so dysfunctional, how the professional ambition of the father is in part responsible for the complete disintegration of the family, and how people who are the closest can also be responsible for the worst things to happen to an individual. The messages are there, but i was not able to reach that level of absurdity and dark humor, to be able to get past the offensive material.
Because, ultimately, like with all the other Miike's, this is how you have to watch those movies. The first degree is there to provoke a strong reaction from us, the viewers, and cause us to question our beliefs and what we consider to be social norms. Miike is the reigning bad boy of international cinema. His movies in the end serve today the same function that John Waters' movies served in the early 70's. I am thinking of stylistic exercises such as "Multiple Maniacs", "Pink Flamingos" or "Female Trouble". We watch those movies today and interpret them the only way that makes sense: it's surreal, absurd (as in beyond common sense, out of synch with reality, Kafkaesque). But in the early 70's, it was a different situation: people did not know what to make of it, and were very strongly offended.
Miike has a different generation to work with though. Waters was never trying to shock his generation, but rather, the generation of his parents. It was the baby boomers rebelling against the previous generation. If you look at people like Glass, Warhol and the artistic clique of the late 60's and early 70's, to me at least, the strongest element was always a sense of rebellion against the previous generation. For some reason, i believe that Generation X is above all an introspective generation, almost an autistic generation. And Miike is there to shock that generation, and as a result, the content is even more explosive: you need even more extreme content to shock our already extreme desensitization to violence and weirdness. His movies shock the 30 something. His movies, with over the top stories and characters, ultimately confront you with the absurdity of the world we are creating at this very moment. Miike reflects back at his audience, with an enormous magnifying power, what disturbs him. In some way, i felt he was telling me: "look, i am showing you something that your children, in 20-30 years from now, might find acceptable and which would offend you. I am just showing it to you now, in 2003".
"Visitor Q" is definitely one of a kind movie. I think it is to date the most offensive and visceral movie i have ever scene, to the point where i had to walk out. I'll have to give it a second chance because i know where Miike is coming from, what he is trying to achieve here and tell his audience. The packaging though is so extreme that it is very hard to take. I was not ready. I wasn't in the right frame of mind. This is a movie i know i should like a lot more, because in every other respect, it is extremely powerful.
- Laurent Hasson