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!