Takashi Miike’s Over Your Dead Body at AFI Fest

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There are a lot of great things about living in L.A. and the AFI Fest is one of them. For eight days, the American Film Institute pulls in all sorts of new, imported, indie, and cool flicks from around the world and invites movie lovers to see them for no cost. And it doesn’t take place in some jury-rigged outdoor or “urban” setting. It’s on nice new screens at Hollywood & Highland. I hardly ever go there or even make time to see movies very often, but I can’t not take advantage of the annual event.

On Tuesday night, my pal Wing and I walked past the highbrow lineup for the Saint Laurent biopic and were absorbed into the Trenchcoat Mafia-looking crowd for Over Your Dead Body. How cool is it to see Takashi Miike’s latest movie on a big screen for free? Japanese DVDs are as expensive as the Japanese director’s movies are intense, so this was a real treat for a big fan on a tight budget like me.

As prolific and unpredictable as he is infamous, Miike gained an international following among gorehounds for his ultra bloody gangster movies (Ichi The Killer) and gnarly horror flicks (Audition) but he has also found a niche among cinema lovers and festival goers for his unbridled imagination (The Bird People of China). On the more recent end of his nearly 100 movies, Miike has been dabbling in superhero nostalgia, young ninjas, and, of course, gangsters, but his long-awaited revisiting of horror, Over Your Dead Body, is not a return to raw, unpolished filmmaking.

Over Your Dead Body follows kabuki actors whose lives follow the tragic paths of their characters: a worthless samurai who ruins one smitten victim’s life before ditching her (and their baby) to take on his next free ride. It’s the first woman who is the protagonist in this disturbing observation of gender politics, and that the story will have a sick and bloody conclusion is never in doubt. However, the artfulness of the play within the movie is as stunning as the rotating set, Technicolor props, and exquisite costuming. The formality, execution, and suspense of the setup and converging plots border on Shakespearean.

When the shit finally does hit the fan, Miike does not disappoint his fans’ more primal needs. The sound effects, bodily fluids, and discomfort all arrive by the truckload and I loved how the furniture is protected from the mess just so. Very Japanese. I remember interviewing the filmmaker for Giant Robot mag at the Avalon in Beverly Hills when Gozu came out and being stricken by how proper and cordial he was–all the while wearing a badass Zebraman T-shirt.

Last week, Shout! Factory grabbed the rights to distributing Over Your Dead Body in the U.S. and Canada, so you should be able to watch a legit disc or stream of the feature (really as much a revenge flick as a horror movie) in the comfort of your living room sometime next year. But I’d see it on a big screen instead. It looks better and bloodier and is more fun that way.

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