iSugio

For Love’s Sake – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Troubled high school student Makoto arrives in Tokyo to exact revenge from a past incident. He then falls in love at first sight with Ai, a daughter raised in a wholesome family. Around Makoto and Ai are Iwashimizu, who has feelings for Ai and Gamuko, a gang member who eyes Makoto.

Consisting of a concoction of themes seen in his two previous films Crows Zero (2007) and The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), For Love’s Sake is prolific director Takashi Miike’s evocative homage to the musical genre of film similar to the likes of West Side Story (1961)—with his vivid interpretation leaning much more towards a very hyper-stylized version of the latter classic film. For those familiar with Miike’s previous efforts, his use of excess within his works is pretty much a given, with For Love’s Sake further elaborating upon his philosophy that showing much more is inherently better—an approach that mostly works to the film’s benefit but also becomes a double-edged sword of sort considering the film’s two and a half hour running time.

Opening with an animated sequence chronicling the first time meeting of Makoto and Ai as children, For Love’s Sake, while highly creative in its presentation, is a film that not everyone will enjoy. It is not that the film’s uniqueness hinders its ability to entertain—far from it in fact—but it’s Miike’s immoderate insertion of musical numbers and excessive scenes of violent confrontations that significantly hamper it. Concerning the first point, to say that the film’s display of musical sequences involving characters is “copious,” would be a complete understatement. In the first half of the film alone, rarely five minutes go by without yet another musical number slipping its way into the narrative. While this is fine and dandy for those viewers who enjoy musicals, it fast becomes tiresome as literally each character introduced receives their own abiding musical sequence, which brings the narrative to a screeching halt at times. While we can see Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris as a surreal horror-comedy with musical numbers interspersed throughout, here we just see way too many of them affecting the flow of the film.

Of course, one can pinpoint this element of the film stemming from Miike’s excessive nature as a director—look no further than his recent film 13 Assassins (2010) as a prime example of this—but one can see that Miike is well aware of it here, in turn making an attempt to remedy it through another aspect he is known for—violence. Yes, For Love’s Sake is filled with men-on-men fighting, women-on-women fighting, men-on-women fighting…and strangely, even child-on-child fighting. Following in a similar vein as his Crows Zero films, Miike puts it into full blown belligerent overdrive as the film hits the midway mark and beyond. By this point, the musical numbers die down only to be replaced with a whole lot of exchanging of blows, showcasing brawl after brawl as Makoto literally battles through an entire roster of high school delinquents in order to save the one he loves. I know, real deep stuff we’re dealing with here.

But as an ode to 1970’s Japanese cinema and the original manga series it was adapted from, it works for the most part. All of the performances within the film are extremely hammy, which reflects many of the films released during the era in which the film dedicates itself to. Commendable actor Satoshi Tsumabuki brings to life the brutish and defiant Makoto, even if Tsumabuki is somewhat too old for the part. Emi Takei, who is currently popular as ever in Japan right now, doesn’t have to contribute much in terms of acting given her character of Ai Saotome really only having to look cute and act proper. We even find Miike deciding to bizarrely exploit this facet of Takei by having her dress up as a bar maid in the film. Yes, Emi Takei dresses up as a bar maid, which is sure to garner a lot of viewership of the film based on that aspect alone.

All joking aside, For Love’s Sake is very much like Miike’s previous efforts—you simply have to leave your brain at the door in order to fully enjoy it. There is enough here to appease fans of Miike, but the film also has considerable crossover appeal to a more contemporary viewership that may be unaware of his previous works. From a practical standpoint, having Tsumabuki and Takei as a the two leads doesn’t hurt the film at all in terms of notability, but from a conceptual standpoint is where the film stumbles. What really hurts the film though is that it is just too long for its own good, achingly stretching out brawls and cramming in musical number upon musical number ad nauseum. If the film had been cut by nearly twenty-five minutes it would have felt more concise, tolerable and less anticlimactic, but it unfortunately isn’t. But like many of his films, For Love’s Sake is more of a cinematic experiment for Miike. While it is surely not his best, it once again shows his creativeness as a director able to combine film genres to his liking. Let’s just hope that next time he is a little less overindulgent.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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