FOR LOVE’S SAKE: AI TO MAKOTO
LOVE & FURY: THE LEGEND OF LOVE AND SINCERITY
by Ariel Esteban Cayer
Oh Miike, what madness have you cooked up for us this year? Already insanely busy a decade ago, Miike has been recently working in hyper-drive, hyper-budgeted mode, mainly adapting iconic manga, anime and video game series (Yatterman, Crows Zero, Ninja Kids!!!, Ace Attorney, the latter also being presented at this year’s festival) and remaking classic films (13 Assassins, Hara-kiri) for Japanese blockbuster audiences – -with a taste for the wacky, eccentric and energetic, at the very least.
Pursuing Miike’s cross-media odyssey and proving to be in unexpected continuity with his early broad fixation on juvenile delinquency in cinema, For Love’s Sake, which premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, is an adaptation of Ikki Kajiwara and Takumi Nagayasu’s classic 1973-1976 manga series Ai to Makoto a.k.a. The Legend of Love and Sincerity, playing out like a fisfight heavy musical somewhere between Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Grease and the director’s steady output of juvenile delinquency films (from the more recent Crows Zero to the earlier Osaka Tough Guys, The Way to Fight and Young Thugs: Innocent Blood). Clearly having a blast with material resonating deeper with his interests and – I can only assume- personal history (Miike being born in 1960), For Love’s Sake vibrates with enthusiasm and aesthetic energy, awash in an ocean of reds: bright neons, dawn and dusk, blood. Rendered with surreal beauty, Miike finds himself experimenting once again, if ever slightly, with different cinematic possibilities: there is the musical, of course (which Miike hadn’t explored since 2001’s The Happiness of the Katakuris) but also sound effects, exaggerated in typical manner to evoke the action films of the the 1970s. Furthermore, Miike does not hesitate to stimulate his audiences with an animated flashback/wrap-around sequence and the past history of a character rendered in a highly theatrical, handmade style that will recall the films of Michel Gondry.
Yet despite all the fighting and the stylistic flourishes, it still comes down to Ai (which means “love” in Japanese) and Makoto’s (which means “sincerity” or “honesty”, completing the wordplay in the title) impossible love affair: a tragic, frustrating and at times cartoonish relationship that sets the stage for some truly interesting on-screen dynamics. Satoshi Tsumabuki (who had previously worked with Miike in 2002’s Sabu and with the aforementioned Gondry in the “Interior Design” segment of Tokyo!) interprets Makoto with great intensity while the lesser known Emi Takei, also to be seen in the recent live-action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshi set to be released in Japan at the end of the summer, provides the sweet counterpart of Ai.
With Nikkatsu celebrating its hundredth anniversary, Miike, in many ways, chose the perfect year to make a live-action adaptation of the 1970s manga series: owing something to the teenage musical, For Love’s Sake is also imbued with the youth gang films of the 1970s, reminding at times of Nikkatsu films such as the Stray Cat Rock series (of which the second installment, Sex Hunter, is presented as part of Fantasia’s Nikkatsu Centennial retrospective).
Hyper post-modern yet excellently orchestrated blast to the past, For Love’s Sake kicks off Fantasia 2012 with a thunderous roar on July 19th, at 6h30 at the Hall Theatre! Take a look at the trailer below and let the frenzy begin!