For Love’s Sake
Japanese Title: 愛と誠
Romaji: Ai to Makoto
Japanese Release Date: June 16th, 2012
Running Time: 134 mins.
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)
Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto, Masachika Ichimura
For Love’s Sake was the final film I saw during the 56th BFI London Film Festival. Despite my dislike for musicals I expected this film to be highly entertaining because it was directed by Takashi Miike.
Can he change how I view a genre? Definitely.
I love Takashi Miike’s sensibilities. Miike is the type of director who can take any genre and transform it into something uniquely his own. When he made The Happiness of the Katakuris I found a musical I could love what with its inventive designs, amusing song and dance numbers, cracked performances and black humour. For Love’s Sake is another musical I can embrace thanks to its ultra-stylish and gleefully over the top and energetic execution.
1972, Tokyo, Ai Satome (Takei) is an angelic high school student who comes from a respectable family. She leads a charmed life until Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki), the boy who stole Ai’s heart as a child and an ultra-delinquent, arrives in Tokyo to settle a score from his past. He soon gets arrested after a rumble with some local toughs and is sent to reform school. Ai is still in love with Makoto and manages to get him released. She brings him to Aobodai Prep School where she studies. Ai’s love for Makoto inspires jealousy in Iwashimizu (Saito), the President of the Student Council, who loves Ai. Soon Makoto is sent to Hanazono Trade School where girl gang leader Ango Gumko (Ando) and Yuki, a “sad chick”, soon develop feelings for him. With Makoto in the centre of this tangled web of love things get extremely complicated and melodramatic.
Ai to Makoto will be familiar for a Japanese audience as it originates from a massively popular manga written in 1973 by Ikki Kajiwara which has been adapted for film in 1974, 75, and 76, Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation being the fourth so far and with Miike’s unique vision this is a case of adapting the classic story of bad boy meets good girl who tries to redeem him and adding a megaton of spectacle.
This missy is downright crazy
For Love’s Sake is an entertaining romp through the popular school melodrama genre. While I haven’t read the original manga this feels like a parody of said genre thanks to the excessiveness of style and the combination of the musical genre. With the knowing lines, sudden bursts of dancing and the presence of plenty of pop music from the 1970’s laced with hilarious lyrics, it is too funny, melodramatic, ironic, and openly genre savvy to be anything else.
The mise-en-scene is perfect and points to the high degree of skill in putting the whole film together. The film starts off with animation, a ski sequence gone awry which is where Makoto and Ai first meet. Then, after the titles hit us, things get a bit normal (apart from one inventive sequence set on stage with props) and we are transported into 1970’s Tokyo, a place of loud shirts, flares and bad clothing in general (except for the classic school uniforms). The look is, to my eye, as convincing as the one seen in Norwegian Wood.
The locations vary from the ostentatious and gaudily decorated home of the Satome family to the post-apocalyptic Hanazono trade school. Each location is wonderful with plenty of details to bask in. One highlight, only used for a few minutes, is a maid café which is straight from a lurid fantasy like Strange Circus. It is full of creeps and creepy solid gold dancers, a place where the cute waitresses wear pink frilly outfits and red shoes.
All of it fits the melodramatic tone of the film and the musical sequences add to the atmosphere as they perfectly illustrate the emotions of the characters in the scenes.