The trailer for Takashi Miike’s latest film Blade of the Immortal is downright bananas in all the best ways. Weird, funny, at times unsettlingly violent, it seems to have all the hallmark of a Miike film.
Based on the manga by Hiroaki, Blade of the Immortal stars Takuya Kimura as Manji, a legendary samurai cursed with immortality. Manji is soon embroiled in a one man war of vengeance on behalf of a young woman Rin (Hana Sugisaki). Samurai codes are followed and broken, swords are drawn, and the streets overflow with blood.
You can watch the trailer here:
The whole thing seems like a blast. The trailer brashly announces that Blade of the Immortal is Miike’s one hundredth film. This little tid bit in of itself is almost as fascinating as the film itself.
Although, sadly I must inform you Takashi Miike has not made a hundred films. He has in fact made a hundred and one films. Another trailer has dropped for the fantastically titled Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Chapter 1. Miike is without a doubt the world’s most prolific director working today.
Like the directors of the thirties and forties he seems at home in any genre. Whether it be fantasy, comedy, family, or young adult adventure Miike seems comfortable no matter what he films. Of course, the genre he’s most known for, the genre he’s worked the most in, and the genre he’s most notorious for, is horror.
Again this is reminiscent of the classic Hollywood directors. John Ford made over two hundred films. But what he was most known for were westerns. Allan Dwan made over four hundred movies! Dwan is a name lost to the winds but a brilliant director in his own right. With films like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Hedi, Sands of Iwo Jima, and Silver Lode Dwan, like Miike, showed a willingness to work in whatever genre would have him.
But with Miike there seems to be a proliferation and proficiency not heard of since the days of the silent movie era. Ford worked from 1913-1971. That’s close to sixty years. Dwan cranked out his films between 1911-1961. So fifty years for Dwan in which he did almost double the amount of films. Miike got his start in 1991 and is still going today with almost no signs of slowing down or something even close to stopping. One hundred and one films in twenty six years.
To put it in starker contrast, the most prolific American director working today is Woody Allen. Allen makes on average one to two movies a year. Allen got his start in 1966 with his debut What’s Up, Tiger Lily? Since then Allen has directed 48 movies, not counting his television work. Fifty one years and Allen is just shy of half of what Miike has done.
To be fair, Miike has done television work as well. It’s where he got his start. That seems to be included in his one hundred and one. The real number is probably somewhere closer to ninety. Still, ninety films is nothing to sneeze at. Between the years of 2001-2002 alone Miike directed fifteen films!
Most directors start in television. Or at least they used to. Long before the current Hollywood system mutated itself into existence, television was in fact a laboratory of sorts. Established directors experimented in it while up and coming directors cut their teeth on it. Working in television is a bit like working on low budget features. You have very little money and even less time.
Television shows are made at a breakneck pace. Soap opera stars often don’t get the pages of dialogue they’re shooting until they’re about to go on. Movies are pressure cooker projects, but television is a battleground with no war in sight. They don’t have box office receipts and the Nielsen numbers are notoriously unreliable; all they have is the work.
Joss Whedon, for example, was a show runner for four television shows before he got to direct a movie. His second movie was Marvel’s The Avengers which he completed in ninety days, on time, and under budget. Anthony and Joseph Russo directed Captain America: Winter Soldier with the same result. With Whedon and the Russos though, there’s no style. You can’t look at one of their movies and say “That’s them.”
Takashi Miike has a definitive style. Whether it be a musical/horror/comedy or a samurai revenge flick, the fingerprints of Miike are clear and visible. It’s a hard style to come by because it must at once be recognizable while also making sense for the story being told.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you thought Miike’s movie were garbage. Fair enough; all art is subjective, fine. Let’s also say that fifty percent of his movies bomb at the box office, both domestically and internationally. Okay? Your average director in today’s Hollywood climate are rarely allowed even twenty percent failures. Bombs are just that, bombs. You normally get one movie to prove why anyone should pay you before you’re booted to the bottom.
Of course, not every one of his movies aren’t good. He’s made one hundred and one movies. By the time this article is posted the number will likely have gone up. It’s not his box office results or even the quality of his output. Miike’s oeuvre may not be spotless, but whose is? He has been successful enough to be allowed to continue within the system. His work has been of a quality that has he’s allowed to have his work shown at film festivals throughout the world.
When the last is recorded Miike is still one of the if not the most prolific directors working today. The man is a directorial cyclone leaving behind not debris but finished films for theatrical release. We could argue about the quality or the success of the movies, but it would only add to the impressiveness of his output. The fact remains that Takashi Miike doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.