Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 29th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, June 10th, 1998
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Masa Nakamura
Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Renji Ishibashi, Makoto ‘Mako’ Iwamatsu
DVD Released: November 16th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD Release: Artsmagic
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
“I have slept over 10,000 times and never dreamt of flying”
Wada (Masahiro Motoki) a Japanese salary man is sent to China to survey a remote village for a strain of Jade. On his way to China he meets Ujiie (Renji Ishibashi) a Yakuza who collects debts. Ujiie forces Wada to take him along on his journey with the intention of collecting the Jade for his organization. Their guide once they arrive in China is Shen (Mako Iwamatsu) who leads them to this peaceful village that has the jade. Once there they become enchanted with the surroundings and don’t want to leave.
The Bird People in China opens with a brief back story for Wada that is shown in a frantic pacing we have come to expect from Takashi Miike. The film once the lead character arrives in China moves slows down to show the difference between Japanese and Chinese cultures. Shot on location Miike captures the essence of the scenic mountains and green landscapes as his camera observes everything as it unfolds which submerges the viewer into this world he has created. Miike strips everything down to their bare essentials focusing more on story then visuals.
The most violent scene in the film comes in the form of a dream/flashback when Mr. Ujiie is cornered by several men in a car garage. What ensues is the type of moment we have come to expect from a Miike film as Ujiie and his attacks battle out in a flurry of bullets. This scene precedes Ujiie’s breakdown which happens after he sadistically hacks a turtle in little pieces. Miike during this scene keeps the violence towards the turtle off screen, still the scene retains all of its power and it is a disturbing scene that I found hard to stomach.
Wada went to this remote village in search of their jade only to find out that the real treasure is this undiscovered place. The overall tone of this film is one of Miike’s most light hearted works. He has proven that he can work in comedy, drama, action or horror genres through out his career. Those who have not been convinced of Miike’s talents as a filmmaker will have no doubt after watching The Bird People of China. Through his diversity and craftsmanship Miike proves that he is one of cinema’s most visionary filmmakers working in film today.
Artsmagic presents The Bird People in China in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors remain strong through out the film as they capture the beauty the locations used in this film. The overall detail is sharp and there is no sign of artifacts or grain. The print used is in excellent shape and the transfer shows it.
Only one audio option is contained on this release the films original Japanese audio track presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 that makes good use of the front speakers and the surrounds. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
The two main extras included on this release are an interview with Takashi Miike and another excellent audio commentary from Miike expert Tom Mes. Other extras include the films original trailer, promotional material and poetry in text written by Annie Laurie. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other Artsmagic releases as well as bios/filmographies for cast and Miike. Artsmagic has rescued another Miike film from obscurity with a special edition DVD that is worthy of this unique film.
The Bird People in China shows another side of Takashi Miike as a director that will pleasantly surprise even his most hardcore fans. If you haven’t seen a Miike film this film is a good starting point and if you are already a fan of Miike I highly recommend this film.