The Bird People of China (1998)Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Motoki Masahiro, Mako, Ishibashi Renji
Tagline: Arthouse Miike? There's a first for everything!
In a confusing opening Mr Wada (Motoki Masahiro) is conned into going to China for his company at the last minute. Once he arrives he is met by Mr Shen (Mako), and Mr Ujiie (Ishibashi Renji), who turns out to be a representative of the Yakuza that his company owes money to.
After being beaten up by Ujiie, Wada works out what is going on and they set off in a van with bits falling off it into the Chinese countryside. Supposedly they are in the country to look for a big Jade deposit, but they end up getting lost and eating mushrooms, which ends with their guide getting a bump on the head with the usual consequences.
By luck they end up in the village they were looking for, but they find something they weren't expecting which is where the story takes a sharp turn in direction. It is the classic outsider story where they discover things about themselves in a strange place they would have never have found otherwise.
There is some the classic Miike weirdness and Yakuza action, but they are not as important as the location and the story in this case. The scenery is also very beautiful and plays an important part in the movie.
I thought the characters were great. Wada starts out as being nerdy and straight laced, but when he finds something to work on in the village he opens up a lot more. Ujiie is very cranky at the start of the film, but eventually he ends up liking the village and wanting to protect it from outsiders.
This film is very strange and you really have to see it know if you are going to enjoy it or not. It reminded me of the film Birdy somewhat with it's tone and seemed more like a classic French arthouse movie than what you would normally expect of Miike's work. This is not a bad thing as this movie is perfect for people who don't like a lot of violence and the usual storylines of his movies.