Last week I reviewed Takashi Miike (Sun Scarred, Crows Zero, Crows Zero II, Zebraman 2)'s most impressive arthouse venture 46 Okunen no Koi, this week I'll be tackling Miike's biggest anti-arthouse middle finger: Visitor Q. Visitor Q is without a doubt Miike's most infamous film. It's a sick and depraved piece of cinema, but it manages to be pretty hilarious in the process. If you ever wondered where Miike got his reputation from, look no further.
Visitor Q is not just any piece of shock shlock though. Some people consider Visitor Q to be a continuation of Pasolini's Teorema (and while I haven't seen Teorema yet, based on the premise alone it sounds more like the antithesis of that film), others think of it as an Ozu parody (which sounds more likely to me). Whatever the case, Visitor Q conforms to a pretty strong concept where the ties between alienated family members are once again strengthened by the introduction of an outsider.
This is not just any ordinary family though. The father is a failed reporter who sleeps with his own daughter, the son physically abuses his mother and mom prostitutes herself to afford her drug habit. When the son is bullied and the family's home is torn up by fireworks, nobody even reacts, apart from the father who thinks it's prime material for a new reality show. And that's just the first 30 minutes of the film, things are bound to get worse from there.
The introduction of the visitor changes things. Q works his way into the family (though that sounds more sophisticated than the actual plot of the film - in reality he bashes the father's head in with a stone and joins him for dinner afterwards) and slowly starts to affect the people around him. While he does bring the different members of the family back together again, it's somewhat disturbing to call his influence positive. I won't spoil the actual outcome, but it's safe to say Miike even out-freaked his own work here.
By all standards, Visitor Q is an incredibly ugly film. Shot in a mere three days, you can even spot a couple of sound microphones in two or three different shots. Miike went all digital and handy-cam with Visitor Q and although it does fit the film, bringing you closer to all the freak than you'd prefer to be, there's just no denying it all looks pretty rushed. Normally I'd never rate such a film with the highest score, but Visitor Q is just too hilarious for me to care about the visuals.
Can't say much about the soundtrack, as it is largely absent for the larger part of the film. Most scenes just contain the sounds recorded while shooting. There is one single song at the end of the film though, which at the same time is also the most stylized scene of the entire film.
While watching Visitor Q you can't help but wonder how the actors must've experienced this film. Some scenes are so disturbing (and straight to the point) that they either felt incredibly ashamed, or they just had the time of their lives while shooting. All actors put in great performances, but it's Kenichi Endo that really goes all out. His interpretation of the father is beyond awesome and it's hard to fathom a crazier, more disturbed character in any film out there. His continuously excited state during the final 30 minutes is no doubt the best comedic performance I've ever witnessed.
Beware though. I speak from experience when I say there are many people out there that don't quite recognize the comedy in this film. While the first hour could be considered just plain disturbing, the final 30 minutes go way beyond and it's impossible to think of it as anything but a slice of extremely dark comedy. If you're one to be (easily) offended by films, it's safe to say that you better stay clear from this film. Unless you really want to agitate yourself of course.
Visitor Q is a crazy film. It contains some truly disturbing and shocking scenes, but the light tone and underlying concept betray a smarter film. It's not just shock cinema made to repulse. You do have to be open to Miike's disturbed sense of humor, but once that is covered Visitor Q is one of the most hilariously funny films out there. If not, at least the film will leave you with certain scenes and imagery that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It's not a film that I'll actively recommend, I'll just let the film recommend itself.