The Bird People in China
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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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Looking at the box, I got the impression that this was going to be some wonderful, fascinating movie with great wonders and visions. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Long Tom
I had seen this film at the Honolulu Film Festival when it first came out. I must have misremembered it. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Ryutai
Don't get me wrong: I watched this film in Japan as a film production student, and it took me almost 10 years to finally get it and watch it again. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Cesar Diaz
This film was recommended to me by my Japanophile movie-loving colleague. On his advice, I bought it. I had no idea what to expect, although I was intrigued by the cover. Read morePublished on October 14, 2013 by Davalon
I have been systematically watching all of Miike's films for the past few months and this one was a surpriser. Read morePublished on January 14, 2008 by Leylines
Beautiful landscape, poor surrounding, fictional people, realistic Mafia-Yakuza, handsome performers and overextended movie running time.
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I have been wanting to view this film for some time, and finally purchased this Miike film along with "The Great Yokai War. Read morePublished on February 12, 2007 by Ernest Jagger
I had seen several Miike films prior to spotting "The Bird People in China" in a video store. I had started out with "Imprint", a graphic, horrific tv drama he made for the... Read morePublished on November 8, 2006 by Victor Schwartzman
As other people said this movie is just great.
By the way Humberto Japan is a country not a city