Monday, 27 January 2014

Visitor Q (2001)

‘Visitor Q’ is Japanese director Takashi Miike’s contribution to the Love Cinema series. This is made up of six ultra-low budget straight-to-video releases by independent filmmakers made as experimentations in the exploration of Digital Video in order to highlight the medium’s benefits for filmmakers in being cost effective and easy to use - low-lighting conditions, more mobility etc.

With a screenplay by Itaru Era, Miike’s film is the last entry for the project telling a bizarre story about the destruction yet very warped healing of an eccentric, already dysfunctional, and sexually perverse family due to the intervention of a mysterious visitor in their home. The tale is laced with black as coal humour as well yet contradictive to these elements it is encapsulated in a documentary/home movie look. This compensates though the more disturbing aspects here in achieving the emphasis on realism that these scenes strive for and are all the more harrowingly effective for it. Yet the director still manages to maintain that bizarreness and blacker than black comedy throughout thanks in no small part to the pitch perfect timing of Era’s script and the insane comical performances of the talented cast walking a very fine line between the viewer’s feelings of amusement and revulsion.

The film opens with a question written in Japanese script against a black background translated in the English subtitle it reads, “Have you ever done it with your dad?” Fading in the prolonged opening scene depicts a young female prostitute Miki (Fujiko) trying to do just that as she tries to persuade her father Kiyoshi (Ken'ichi Endô) to have sex with her for a price. A television reporter Kiyoshi is filming this in his daughter’s apartment for his latest project about youths of modern day Japan. Although, he actually lets his runaway daughter persuade him giving in to his lust for incest and they eventually have sex with Kiyoshi finishing after only a short time. He then realizes that the camera has been on the whole time. The title of the next scene is another question - “Have you ever been hit on the head?” Kiyoshi is sitting in the waiting room of a train station on his way home watching a happy family walk past on the opposite platform when from the window behind him he is attacked seemingly for no apparent reason by a stranger (Kazushi Watanabe) hitting him over the head with a huge stone. The movie’s title card then comes up so we know this character is the “Visitor Q” of the title credited here simply as The Visitor.

Next scene and another question for its title - “Have you ever hit your mom?" Here we see the domestic violence of Kiyoshi’s home. As his wife Keiko (Shungiku Uchida) is working on a jigsaw puzzle we can see red marks on her hands and she is then beaten by their son Takuya (Jun Mutô) using a rug beating stick. Soon after, bullies from Takuya’s school attack him by shooting fireworks through his bedroom window. We then see Keiko go to her bedroom and taking off the top half of her clothes we see her body is covered in marks from the attacks of her son. This and the red marks on her hands tell us that his abuse of her has been going on for some time. She then cooks up some heroin and injects herself with it. Not having a huge effect on her this tells us that it is an ongoing addiction. It is reveled later that she sells herself which is why she pleads with her son not to touch her face when he beats her.

Walking back to his house that night with bandages on his head Kiyoshi is attacked again by the mysterious stranger again hitting him over the head with a huge stone from behind. The film then cuts to the family home where Kiyoshi and The Visitor are eating together the dinner Keiko has prepared for them. Kiyoshi announces that their guest will be staying for a while. As Takuya is about to beat his mother again they do not intervene and The Visitor even says not to mind him and to carry on while he continues eating and watches a news report on television as Kiyoshi goes to bed. The anchorwoman on TV Asako (Shôko Nakahara) plays a role in Kiyoshi’s woes being his co-worker and former mistress who has broken off their affair after the scandal of him showing publically his humiliation at the hands of a gang of hoodlums he tried to interview for his project on youths while his cameraman was still filming. She believes he is taking his work too far. On his way to work the next day Kiyoshi sees his son Takuya being bullied by the fireworks attackers and it gives him another idea for a project.

So that is the first act all the problems of this family in crisis have been depicted setting it up for The Visitor to come in and manipulate their already fragile state of being into living out perverted sexual acts that although escalates their craziness brings this family back together again. With a helping hand from their guest, they learn that they can become a tight family unit through their insanity. It is interesting to note that it is after Kiyoshi commits the amoral sin of incest with his daughter that The Visitor appears as Kiyoshi looks on at a happy family in the “Have you ever been hit on the head?” scene. Knocking out Kiyoshi was The Visitor’s way of infiltrating his home. It is applied in a later scene when Kiyoshi meets Asako to discuss his latest idea for a project about his bullied son that he invited The Visitor into his home thinking that he somehow helped him as he does not know who his attacker (s) were. The Visitor embodies a wakeup call for the family knocking some sense into them literally in those two scenes with the father and again in the movie’s penultimate scene with his daughter Miki as she sells herself on the streets of Tokyo. The aforementioned Jigsaw puzzle Keiko was working on also plays a part in foreshadowing her daughter's return symbolizing a piecing together again of the family.

There is the father/husband having an affair with a younger woman, his son being bullied and taking his frustrations out on his mother, her addiction to drugs to cope with a miserable existence and the daughter who has run away from home. These problems are not too different to most common family strife but the screenwriter and director’s approach to solving them is in the most fucked up way through four murders, necrophilia and sexual fulfilment through lactating. The latter of which serves as the mother’s realization of her matriarchic role in the family with the emotionally beautiful final scene symbolizing that the family is healed after The Visitor has left and the daughter Miki has returned home her head bleeding after his knock on her head. Injuries that immediately disappear when the family is unified the film ending on the note that everything it going to be just fine for them. They may have become demented perverts but they are demented perverts who are at harmony with each other. A family that now accepts its own dysfunctions and can now communicate through them and love each other once again.

Another interesting note is that while his father and mother think nothing of The Visitor and never question why he is there and what he is doing it is only the son Takuya that suspects him. He is the only one who at the end of the movie decides a life of normality returning to his studies to be able to get away from his family and out into the world on his own and does not take part in that final symbolic scene of a family as one again.

As shocking as the material might be, the film never once comes across as exploitatively pornographic. It exists in the art house serving as a sub-textual commentary playing out as a satire on modern day Japan’s family values and sexual repression in its culture that has given birth to some of the most far out weirdo pornographic material of any country. With stinging attacks on sensationalized media to boot ‘Visitor Q’ is some of Takashi Miike’s most thoughtful, poetic and provocative work.

*** out of ****

Dave J. Wilson

©2014 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.


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