For Love’s Sake 愛と誠 (2012)

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.

Love is not peace. Love is a battlefield

The large and extreme cast of characters are all colourful and memorable.The actors give their all and more in this film. Whether in song and dance or fights they deliver their performances with a straight face, only the odd character breaking out with an “Oh come on,” when Miike thinks the audience will be thinking the same thing. The songs also have an element of irony in them and this all works a charm in setting the humour at just the right level.

As Makoto, Tsumabuki is fantastic. He is the ultimate delinquent and oozes pure charisma and cockiness, cackling with delight in earth-shattering fights. He seems to be the only man who can beat a girl up and make her love him. It seems his indifference to life is a major factor in his attractiveness but he hides real pain. I felt his indifference to the desires of those around him was most amusing as he came out with lines like “The rich make me vomit”.

This indifference extends to Ai for most of the film and seeing her persistence was quite disturbing but in a funny way thanks to the tone of the film. Takei plays her as a pure angel and she offers a great counterpoint to all of the testosterone and an example of pure love. Their relationship is one that will remain an idealised one for Ai even if Makoto puts her through a hell of a time. It is thanks to her belief in him that the film notches up the emotional beats that it has.

Tsuyoshi Ihara and Sakura Ando are also both extremely funny as brain-dead gang members. All four give fantastic performances’ in the musical sequences which kept me entertained.

You moved me. You and your resolution

There are exaggerated emotions, fierce fights, stunning statements of pure love and lots of dancing. Takashi Miike presents it in a visually stunning way transforming what could have been ‘just another adaptation’ of a timeless story and making it blisteringly individual and exciting for a new generation.

For Love’s Sake was my final film of the festival and I loved it! Takashi Miike’s films can vary in quality and some of his titles have left me disappointed but when he is on form like in Audition and 13 Assassins, his idiosyncratic world view and extreme style make for some of the most breathtakingly exciting and focussed slices of cinematic awesomeness that justify the existence of the medium of film! The music and choreography and the performances of the entire cast are all excellent and served to break down whatever dislike I have for musicals, transport me to 1970’s Tokyo and leave me deliriously excited! Even at two hours long the film never wavers or feels boring! This is one of the best films of the year!

5/5

12 thoughts on “For Love’s Sake 愛と誠 (2012)

  1. goregirl

    Wow! Another 5/5. Great review Jason! Although when it comes to Miike I need no prodding! Not a fan of musicals by any means but I sure did love Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris! i look forward to Love Sake even more after reading your review!

  2. your review has once again intrigued me, Jason🙂
    I haven’t yet seen any musical movie from Japan, not many from other countries either…I not a fan of the genre. BUT I have been trying to be more opened lately, I even watched 2 musicals in a row…none impressed me tho. I willing tn try again with this one.

  3. your review has once again intrigued me, Jason🙂
    I haven’t yet seen any musical movie from Japan, not many from other countries either…I not a fan of the genre. BUT I have been trying to be more opened lately, I even watched 2 musicals in a row…none impressed me tho. I willing tn try again with this one.

      1. I’ll take your word for it and waiting for the DVD.

        I have seen music themed movies from Japan but never the musical yet. my fav is Fish Story, have u seen it?

  4. Interesting review. I had the chance to watch the movie just a few days ago and find it hard to write a review, but you got all the right words – your review is just perfect. I don’t like a lot of musicals too, but Miike is someone who can really make you re-think of what you like and not like. This is an extreme departure from his previous movies – Harakiri and 13 Assassins, and even the more recent Lesson of the Evil.

    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      When it comes to Miike, expect the unexpected!

      I have been meaning to comment on your site because it looks awesome and it’s always cool to talk to fellow J-film fans. You’ve definitely got a link from me!

      1. Yes, as far as Miike is concerned moviegoers should always keep an open mind. We don’t know what will happen – he is really, as you say, prolific. We can discuss Miike for like hours and hours and we will not run out of topics! lol

        Looking forward to seeing more movie reviews from you. I’m also looking at some past blog post. Some blogs can compel readers to comment, and yours is one of them! I’m really enjoying a lot of what you have posted here!

        I want to thank you for the link back, really appreciate it. Especially for a new blog like mine, getting a link from an established one like you is really great!🙂

      2. Thanks for the kind words!🙂

        I’m not sure I would describe going through my blog fun… Maybe a challenge😉

        Glad to help with the link. Asian movie blogs and great cinema blogs have to stick together!

        Miike is awesome. I really need to dedicate a movie season to him. I’m pretty interested in seeing his latest film because the reviews for it have been excellent and the actors are great!

  5. I finally read your review (since I finally finished mine).

    “Tsumabuki is fantastic” Of course he is. He always is.😀😀😀 Sorry, I couldn’t help myself there!

    I often don’t like film musicals either (that Mamma Mia one was excruciatingly painful), but after watching some that worked (Across the Universe and Hairspray), I realised if the director is skilled and doesn’t make the songs feel forced, they can be fantastic. Of course, with Miike the songs are way over-the-top and in any other film that would be disastrous, but here it fits right into his whacky approach to adapt this story.

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