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Japanese Auteur Miike Takeshi on Violence and Yakuza Love Stories 

Japanese auteur Miike Takeshi delivered an entertaining masterclass to a packed audience as part of the Singapore International Film Festival on Sunday, where he held forth on a range of subjects. Conducting the masterclass was Singaporean filmmaker Kirsten Tan (“Pop Aye”).

A day earlier, Miike received an honorary award from the festival.

In a career spanning some 30 years, Miike has directed more than a 100 movies and TV shows. He attributes his prolific output to his years as an assistant director where he apprenticed with the likes of Shohei Imamura and Toshio Masuda and learnt to maximise the time and limited budget allocated for a film in the most efficient manner. “Even now, when we are having lunch at the location, when the crew and actors are having a luxurious meal, I think I can use this time to make a short TV commercial,” said Miike.

Miike’s latest film “First Love” debuted at Cannes earlier this year and screened again at the SGIFF. Set over one night in Tokyo, the film follows a young boxer and a sex worker who get involved in a drug smuggling operation.

Miike said that the current trend at Japanese box office was in favour of Hollywood blockbusters and lighthearted love stories. “The movies I was making involving dropouts, outsiders and yakuza are sort of chased away from theatres in Japan, so I wanted to use these people in a film to show that even all these outsiders can be in love and make a good love story,” said Miike.

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Miike says that the expression of violence in his films stems from the love he has for his actors. And when they go home after the shoot, they must reflect on the day’s work with satisfaction. He also spoke about contrasting the violence with moments of humour.

Describing his process of working with actors, Miike said, “What I don’t do is to get them together and have a discussion to make a film. I normally let them read the screenplay on their own and let them think about the kind of character they are playing. What I don’t want them to think is, ‘if I play this role, it will be a springboard for me for my future career’. I want them to concentrate on what they are doing now on the film that we are shooting.” He said that he tried to create an environment that the actors find enjoyable.

Miike revealed that the epic standoff sequence in his 1999 film “Dead Or Alive”, culminating in an apocalyptic finale, remains his favourite. “The energy is such that it can affect the entire northern hemisphere,” Miike said. “Even in low-budget cinema we could create something enormous. The scene in its final form, did not exist in the screenplay, and Miike added it later. “The filmmaking process itself must be entertaining, that’s why I love this movie,” Miike said.

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