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THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA

Japan, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Regional Features)

Director: Takashi Miike

Contrasling images of flight—primeval, mystical, hi-tech—set the tone for a remarkable journey backwards in time to the most distant part of China. Yunnan is frozen in time, a place so culturally isolated that the old­est person there has never even heard of Chairman Mao. Untouched by modernity it is a place where magic and myth are as natural as the spectacular beauty of its set­ting. In this place people believe that their ancestors could fly and that they too possess the ability.

As the film opens, three unlikely travellers are head­ed for Yunnan. Mr Wada, a young Japanese company man whose reality is encompassed by his laptop, has been dis­patched by his boss to track down a cache of fabulous jade from the region. Mr Ujiie, a short-tempered Yakuza (Japanese gangster), is there to make sure the mob get their cut of the gemstone treasure trove. The slightly more altruistic Mr Shen, their unflappable interpreter and guide,wants to strike it rich and bring electricity to his village.

Travelling in a succession of increasingly primitive vehicles (an ancient train, a decrepit van and finally a raff towed by a half dozen giant turtles!!) they reach their destinalion and discover that the jade stash is even larg­er and more valuable than they could have dreamed. To their surprise, however, they discover something more precious: a fascinating mystery embodied in a blue-eyed Chinese girl who teaches the village children about flying and sings a hypnotic melody over and over. A disarmingly sweet cross-cultural comedy with a lyrical-fan­tasist undercurrent—utterly entrancing!

See also...

Three...extremes

South Korea, Japan, China/Hong Kong, 2004
[Three... Extremes] is a chilling, top-shelf anthology, featuring three short 'horror' films directed by perennial MIFF faves Park Chan-wook, Miike Takashi and Fruit Chan. ... "Park's [Cut] ranks as … More »

GREAT YOKAI WAR, THE

Japan, 2005
Yokai / n. pl. Bizarre-looking monsters and supernatural beings from Japanese folklore who like to play tricks on unsuspecting humans. Eight-year-old Tadashi, a meek schoolboy from a broken family, f… More »

BIG BANG LOVE, JUVENILE A

Japan, 2005
“Homoerotic prison life acts as an inscrutable metaphor for what's wrong with modern Japan.” - Variety ... Jun leads an isolated life working in a gay bar but after being brutalised by a customer… More »

SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO

Japan, 2007
“Tighten your saddlebags, load your revolvers, pack your chopsticks and join [Takashi] Miike for an outrageous wagon ride into the wild, wild East.” - Toronto International Film FestivalIn is his… More »

YAKUZA EIGA

France, 2008
“I love the Yakuza… I see them as the heirs to the samurai spirit.” - actor Sonny Chiba ... Literally translated as ‘good-for-nothing', Japan's criminal brotherhood - the Yakuza - underw… More »

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