Bird People in China (Miike Takashi 1998)
Genre: Contemporary Fairy-Tale
review in one breath
Bird People in China is truly one of Miike’s best films. Director Miike Takashi has always been a master of exaggeration and most notoriously so in the areas of extreme violence and sexuality. Here, however, he utilizes exaggeration in an utterly unique manner and leads audiences to an intersection of gritty realism and dream-like mythology. Though Bird People in China starts in rather familiar territory for Miike fans, with violent Yakuza lurking in the shadows, it soon departs from his characteristic formula and travels instead to the idyllic mountainous landscapes of remote China. There, far removed from the bustle of the city, Miike not only allows his characters to be completely transformed amid nature’s grandeur and the smiles of gentle villagers, but also wraps the entire narrative within an ancient, inspiring mythology.
Through skillful exaggeration, Miike convincingly raises realism to the level of fairy-tale, bringing audiences to the blurred line between the real and fantasy. But bringing audiences to this brink is merely a means to Miike’s ultimate goal of demonstrating to modern audiences the traditional beauty and meaningfulness irreplaceably preserved within ancient imaginations. Miike then unpacks this impressive revelation into a morality tale of cultural and environmental importance.