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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
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   Visitor Q  


Visitor Q

Reviewed by drakula

Japanese Title: Bizita Q
Director: Miike Takashi
Writing Credits: Era Itaru
Cast:Endo Kenichi, Uchida Shungiku, Watanabe Kazushi, Nakahara Shoko, Fujiko, Muto Jun
Genre: Comedy drama
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Year Released: 2001
Runtime: 84 min

One would think that a film about the dissolution of what may be the basis of Japanese society - the family unit - would be full of pathos and the edginess of portraying dysfunctionality, yet what Visitor Q achieves here (especially toward the end), is something more transcendent, and by that fact, more moving, than that. Which makes it in the same vein of Ozu's films on the demise of family, and achieving in the same light, the same poignancy and forgiveness that usually bookend the greatest of these films.

Throughout the better half of the film, Miike overlays the violence and the extreme sex with a campiness that never makes it hard to swallow. It all seems to make sense in a weird kind of way, in part due to the feeling that it is a hyper-real realization of the seething undercurrents of the modern yet conservative Japanese society. Everything is presented as if it is common and mundane, and yet what is considered in our eyes as taboo (considered even more so by the Japanese) is presented nakedly in every scene, so much so that it explores a wholly different society altogether. Not one that we know, of course, but one where each member in the family unit drowns themselves in their deviancy, distancing themselves further and further away from each other.

Yet, all this sexual deviancy and wanton violence never seems pointless, for (as it is seen as the film progresses) it seems that the reason why the people in the movie become more deviant and the further away from each other, stems from their desire to return to the early beginnings of family, when things like sex and violence were out of the equation; when things were a lot less complicated. And the fact that this is impossible, the fact that things will only become more complicated from here. The pressures put on them when they have to face this reality, drive them further away from reality itself, and deeper into their dark and twisted worlds of amorality. To put it simply, in a strange way, the more extreme they act, the more they want to return to family, which is what makes it especially resonant in a time when family is losing its importance.

So when the film opens, we see these people lost in their own devices, and vices; sinking deeper and deeper down into the murky depths of deformed humanity. And all it takes is a stranger, armed with a rock, to knock some sense into the family again. I've heard comparisons of this film with Pasolini's Teorema, in which a stranger takes turns to seduce an entire household, and eventually pushing them to open themselves up to each other, and to their own selves. In a way, this is true, especially from the portrayal of sex in this film, for it seems that sex is the only way they attempt to communicate to each other; the only way in which they are forced to feel each other's pain and scars. However sex in this film is, more often than not, destructive rather than healing. This is not the first time phobia of sex has been portrayed in Miike's movies, from the stuck penis in Gozu to the anal rape torture in Shinjuku Triad Society. In fact, in all the extreme sex, most of them are shown to shock and revolt with an underlying sense of camp that makes them revolting one moment, funny the next, but never truly erotic.

It is thus hardly any surprise that salvation for this deranged family comes in the form of a return to the very beginnings of the concept of family. In the person that is able to give, and the people that want to receive, infant-like. It shows that of all the madness and chaos raging in the outside world, there is always a place where everyone can return to, even if the picture of it is not exactly as it was before.

This is particularly what sets this film apart from most of the aberrantly violent or overwhelmingly bleak films that characterize extreme art-house cinema today. The fact that peeled away of all its nihilistic layers, what lies at the core is a warm film of understanding and acceptance, showing that above all, Miike is indeed a sentimental director at heart, pushing forth his exuberance and faith in humanity under the black covers of sardonic absurdity.

What a beautiful beautiful film. By turns dark, bizarre, funny in all its campy glory, heartbreaking and redemptive, the film only proves that as our orbits drive us further and further away from each other, the sticky substance of milk is the only thing that can glue us together and keep us floating above the water like bubbles, instead of sinking inside the vast and anonymous sea of depravity and debauchery. The extremities in the film will hit you like a stranger with a rock and force your head down from outer space and back onto the good hard earth of reality.