A father who desperately wants a successful reality TV show, a prostitute daughter who does not mind servicing her father and a mother who experiences joy only when she's squeezing milk from her breasts - welcome to the wacky world of Takashi Miike's Visitor Q. Stephen Tan reviews.

THE ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW

A teenage prostitute offers her rates to a middle-aged man in a bedroom. While the man seems hesitant, she encourages him to fondle her. They end up having sex, only that the man is what she calls an "early bird" (a euphemism for premature-ejaculation), for which she charges extra! After the sex, he advises her that she shouldn't be turning tricks and should concentrate on her studies. It's only slowly that viewers realise that the two are father and daughter. Have you ever done it with your dad?

While Takashi Miike's Audition (1999) can easily be described as a harrowing viewing experience, his 2001 movie, Visitor Q, is certainly more palatable due to its bleak humour. A spoof on reality TV and a commentary on the modern Japanese family, Miike takes a dysfunctional family and sees if the parts can piece together.

Father Kenichi Endo works on a reality TV show which had turned on him - instead of interviewing some punks, he ends up having the microphone stuck up his ass. When the segment was broadcast, Endo ends up being ridiculed. Even now he's scouting for more ideas - he's resorted to videotaping sex with his daughter.

Kazushi Watanabe as the
visitor.

 

In school, son Jun Muto is humiliated and suffers under the hands of three bullies, who not only take his money but shoot fireworks into his bedroom at night. To vent his frustration, he beats his submissive mother with a cane. Ever beat up your mom? Daughter Fujiko is a runaway, selling sex for pocket money and looks bored even when it's her father penetrating her.

Mother Shungiku Uchida is a class act all by herself. Dutifully carrying out her wifely duties, she also painfully applies soothing balms and ointments to the sores caused by her son's beatings. To help ease her pain and whatever else, she shoots up. Like her daughter, Uchida too sells her body, only that her takings are for her drug habit.

One day, at a train station, Kenichi gets hit on the head by an unnamed man (the visitor in the title, played by Kazushi Watanabe). That night, Kenichi inexplicably invites the visitor to stay in his house. In the morning, Kenichi spots his son being bullied and decides to sell the story to his editor.

After returning home from a sex session, Uchida finds the visitor alone. The visitor offers to help soothe her aching back but ends up doing more than that - he frees up her repression that is symbolically shown as a showering of breast milk.

Shungiku Uchida as the
mother.

 

While trying to convince his TV station about his son-being-bullied story, he accidentally kills his editor and, in a fit of rage, he violates her body and finds he is stuck inside her. With Uchida now liberated, she gamely gets oil to help out her husband and is on hand to help chop up the dead editor's body. Just then, the bullies return to torment their son. With new fire in their loins, Kenichi slays two of the boys while Uchida easily drills a hole through the third. The enigmatic visitor later finds the son lying in a mixture of his mother's milk and vaginal fluids in the house. Walking along the street, the visitor is accosted by the daughter who is then hit (and beaten up) probably by the visitor. She returns home to find her father suckling at her mother's breast. She then joins the two of them.

While it's a movie convention that it is the visitor who disrupts a familial setting with disastrous results, here Miike inverts the situation and brings harmony and peace to what starts off as a dysfunctional family. For that reason, some reviewers see Miike's Visitor Q as a conservative family movie. But that's not really the point. Kenichi is so out there trying to get his own reality TV show that any semblance of harmony and peace in the family is really illusory. It's like saying Terry Gilliam's Brazil has a happy ending because the protagonist now finds himself in a blissful state.

As Miike would have it, reality TV is highly competitive with disastrous results and even poses a danger to unsuspecting families but it is never boring. Along the way, incest, prostitution, lactating mammaries and classroom bullies get lampooned. This is one of those movies where questions are still asked long after the curtains come down. Films such as Audition, Ichi The Killer (2001) and Visitor Q really push Takashi Miike to the forefront of Japanese cinema. So what is he doing with a "childish" throwback such as The Great Yokai War in 2005? Ever take the money and run?

Note: The Visitor Q DVD is banned in $ingapore.





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February 27, 2007








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