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The Bird People in China

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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(Nov 16, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Wada, a Japanese salary man, is sent by his company to investigate claims of a priceless vein of jade in a small Chinese village. On his arrival, Ujjie, a yakuza who is owed by Wada's company, accosts him and intends to take the debt out of the jade. DVD features include Dolby Digital, 16x9 anamorphic widescreen, exclusive interview with director Takashi Miike, commentary by Tom Mes, extensive biographies/filmographies, original promotional material, original movie trailer, scene selection, and interactive menus.

Special Features

  • Interview with director Takashi Miike
  • Original Movie Trailer
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • Scene Selection

Product Details

  • Actors: Masahiro Motoki, Renji Ishibashi, Mako, Michiko Kichise, Yûichi Minato
  • Directors: Takashi Miike
  • Writers: Makoto Shiina, Masa Nakamura
  • Producers: Seiha Ohji, Toshiaki Nakazawa, Yasuhiko Furusato
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Arts Magic
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000654ZBO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,341 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Bird People in China" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Unlike anything else directed by Takashi Miike, The Bird People in China is a film that stays with the viewer long after ending. Though the ever-present yakuza does make an appearance here--in the form of a lone bill collector who follows the protagonist, Wada, to a remote village--that element (yakuza violence) is not at all the primary focus of the film.

Wada, a Japanese salaryman, is sent by his company (to whom the yakuza made a loan, and now they want their money back), a gem brokerage firm, to a totally isolated part of China in which jade is said to be the finest available. At the onset, Ujiie, the yakuza bill collector, shows Wada just how tough he can be. Through the arduous journey up to the remote village, Wada struggles to keep up and Ujiie curses, shouts, threatens, and mutters in his sleep.

Though Wada does find his jade, he (and Ujiie) find much more as well. The simplicity of the mountain people they encounter is, even to Ujiie--or more aptly, especially to Ujiie--something completely irresistible. So much so that when it's time to leave, the yakuza freaks out and...well, no spoilers here.

If you know beforehand that a few of the bits and pieces that make up the mystery of this village are an old Scottish song, an uprighted plane, and six huge ocean-going turtles, that still won't prepare you for the amazing emotional experience this is. The very last scene is truly breathtaking, and before that, one scene in particular, in which a young village girl sings in the middle of the night, is sublimely beautiful.

It's great that Miike is much more than a purveyor of grotesque, bizarre violence (e.g., Gozu, Izo, Ichi the Killer, Audition). The Bird People in China should be counted as one of the top ten Japanese films of the last ten years, hands down.

Highly recommended.
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Format: DVD
As others have mentioned, this is not your typical Miike film. Most notably, and in spite of the presence of a disgruntled Yakuza, there is very little violence and almost no blood. But then, none of his films are typical. Even his most straightforwardly genre-driven films include elements of reality in its remarkable strangeness, moments in which the camera records little things that appear inconsequential yet lend the whole an aura of authenticity. What makes this film in particular wonderful is both its leisurely pace and its unpredictability, it's attention to details that are not so much about plot as rhythm, atmosphere, mood and feeling. For example, that the characters are drawn through a river by harnessed turtles. That the mysterious young woman they meet in their destination sings an Irish song. The occasional stumble as they walk on gorgeous mountain passes. The film captures so well the ambiguous draw of wild nature, of the simple life that can at the same time feel beautiful and mysterious as well as boring, primitive and backwards. This is a film unlike any other I have seen, and yet it is never so strange as to alienate its audience. Miike hardly (maybe once or twice) ever calls attention to himself as a director but puts the focus on the characters, the landscape, the moon, the settings. The best cinematic comparison I can come up with is to imagine Aguirre, the Wrath of God filmed in live action by Hayao Miyazaki. It is a very fine film.
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Format: DVD
Takashi Miike is the living definition of the word "indefatigable". In a career that began in the early 1990s, he has directed a staggering number of films in a mind-boggling array of different genres, from horror to family films, even a musical (!); but Miike is probably best known for his Yakuza (Japanese gangster) films. The likes of FUDOH, ICHI, and DEAD OR ALIVE, with their over-the-top violence and surreal (often disgusting) setpieces, are Miike's chief claim to fame. In one respect that's a pity, because every once in a while, Miike will produce a wild card, and BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA is a film that fits into that latter category. The man character is a young Japanese executive named Mr. Wada (Masahiro Motoki), who is sent by his boss to a remote region in the wilds of China to survey a supposedly rich jade mine. He is joined on his trip by a Yakuza named Ujiie (Renji Ishibashi), who plans on taking the jade as payment for some outstanding debts on the part of Wada's boss. After they are taken as far as the train will go, Wada and Ujiie are met by their guide, the absent-minded Mr. Shen (scene-stealer Mako), who takes them through the rugged, unsettled terrain of rural China, first on foot, and then on a raft pulled by several huge sea turtles. When the three men finally reach their destination, a village left untouched by the ravages of industrialization, Wada and Ujiie have a few epiphanies that will prove to make leaving rather difficult. It sounds like a simple story, and it is, but there's something about this film that makes it great, but that I find hard to articulate. No doubt the startlingly beautiful cinematography by Hideo Yamamoto has alot to do with the film's hypnotic quality.Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase

Cult director Takashi Miike has made a warm departure from his more traditional and visceral yakuza crime epics, and presented us with a journey into the wilds of China, and into the interior of the human heart. What begins as a pedestrian last minute assignment to for a young Japanese businessman (Masashiro Motoki as Wada), rapidly becomes a tempestuous tale worthy of a Joseph Conrad rendering. He is shadowed by a yakuza henchman (Renji Ishibashi as Ujiie), there to insure the financial success of the venture in order to recoup a corporate mob loan.

There is a remote Chinese village that sports a jade mine. These men are sent to investigate its validity and secure the jade's distribution. The trip to the village is long, arduous and humorous, loaded with the edgy comic violence and absurdity that Miike excels in. Their guide is Shen (Mako in one of his last performances). He wears his hair long, pulled back in a ponytail. It is fun to see him with hair, since most of his roles required him to wear his hair very short. Shen is a Japanese adventurer that had lived for a time in the village.

As the travelers transition from rickety VW van to a two-cylinder mountain taxi, to just hiking on foot, dragging their modern luggage up steep trails, we are treated with some of the most striking scenery and visual imagery ever recorded on film. Swollen spring rivers, terribly muddy roads filled with ruts, and oppressive downpours are all part of the adventure. At one point they must travel by raft on a mighty river. The bamboo raft is towed by five large turtles. The underwater imagery of those towing turtles sticks with you. There is a feel of Werner Herzog on the rivers, and in the mountains, of a wildness and untouched majesty.
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