Prolific Japanese auteur Takashi Miike’s latest feature is First Love, the wild genre romp that follows a young boxer and a call girl who get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night in Tokyo.
The pic premiered in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight program and has also played Toronto, Busan, London and Fantastic Fest. This week it is screening at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), the growing event held in the Chinese gambling capital.
Deadline caught up with Miike to chat about how his work has changed over the course of a 30-year, 100+ film career.
DEADLINE: You still direct 1-2 movies every year, where do you find the stamina?
TAKASHI MIIKE: I don’t think about stamina or the pace of my work. I just feel happy to make movies and enjoy it. You can’t get any answers by comparing to others. Life is not as long as you think.
DEADLINE: During your career, has getting the finance for your projects become more or less easy? Do you get government backing?
TAKASHI MIIKE: I have never received support from the government. We are working on projects with overseas [financiers], but you never know what will happen until the end. Of course, it would be nice if I had ample funds… but at least it’s still fun to make movies. I don’t think strong ambitions will always be a benefit to my life as a director.
DEADLINE: What was the inspiration for First Love and why was it a project you wanted to direct?
TAKASHI MIIKE: Yakuza movies are in danger of disappearing. Young people are looking for light love stories and anime, and filmmakers have lost their courage to gamble. The Japanese film industry is slowly but surely dying. So I had Yakuza on a rampage in my movie for the sake of protecting diversity in the movies.
DEADLINE: The film premiered at Cannes, how important are international festivals for your work?
TAKASHI MIIKE: A finished work walks on its own and takes me to unexpected places, and my avatar ‘Director Takashi Miike’ was born. I am grateful for finding attention for my small works, such as Audition and Gozu.
DEADLINE: Jeremy Thomas was a producer on First Love, and some of your previous films, how did that relationship first come about? How much of a supporter has he been in getting your films released internationally?
TAKASHI MIIKE: I met Jeremy Thomas in Venice for the first time. The film festival officials told me, “Jeremy Thomas wants to meet you and talk to you.” I replied, “Eh? Jeremy… that Jeremy? Why does he want to meet me?”
I asked Jeremy frankly. His answer was lovely. He gently touched his nose and said, “It’s a sense of smell. That’s what a producer needs.” How cool he is! Since then, we have received various support from Jeremy.
And now I have a duty. One day I have to prove that Jeremy has got a good sense of smell.
DEADLINE: Your films have been noted for their graphic content – has your approach to cinematic violence changed over the years?
TAKASHI MIIKE: To be precise, I am not a violent director but there are many violent characters in my movies. Instead of using them to make violent movies, they are using me. I am still a good and faithful servant to them.
DEADLINE: Remarkably, you now have more than 100 credits to your name, what have been the key lessons you have learned in that time?
TAKASHI MIIKE: After all, making movies is still tough and interesting. The more you shoot, the stronger and more interesting it becomes. The lesson… well: “Stop grumbling. Just shoot!”
DEADLINE: You must have been offered plenty of Hollywood directing jobs – are you tempted?
TAKASHI MIIKE: Of course. For our generation, Hollywood movies are a longing, even as an audience member. But to be honest, I want to take a full swing at making a movie in Hollywood once in my lifetime. If I have an opportunity, I would like to enjoy it with all my best.
DEADLINE: Streaming is having such an impact on the industry – how much is that being felt in Japan? Does working with them interest you?
TAKASHI MIIKE: Japan is definitely affected. It is a big wave that we have never experienced before. People in the film industry do not know what to do as they can’t see how the future will develop. I feel that way.
As an individual, I originally directed video works so it has just shifted from the shelves in the video shop to the ones on the internet. In other words, it has only shifted from analogue to digital. As a director, I am always ready to rush anywhere at any time if I receive offers.
DEADLINE: High-end, big budget television is a boom industry at the moment – are you interested in doing more work on the small screen?
TAKASHI MIIKE: Of course, I’m interested in the production system, which I have never experienced. But… I imagine it would be hard as there might be cumbersome stress aside from the difficulties of production.
DEADLINE: Are your optimistic for the future of theatrically-distributed movies?
TAKASHI MIIKE: I am optimistic, but I am sure it won’t be in the current form.
DEADLINE: Looking back on your career, is there a particular project you are most proud of?
TAKASHI MIIKE: It should be Audition, but with a sense of gratitude rather than pride. And I would be grateful if as many audiences as possible enjoy my latest movie First Love, into which I put everything.