Cinophile: Visitor Q

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Here’s a neat party trick. Invite your friends over for an avant garde evening of movie watching. Tell them you have a Japanese take on Mary Poppins – a little more edgy and without any animated penguins. Then pop in Visitor Q. You’ll probably end up with fewer friends…

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Visitor Q was made for a series called Love Cinema, in which independent filmmakers took advantage of new technology to create low-budget movies. It only cost $60,000 to make, but is easily the most famous of Love Cinema’s six releases.

In movies, ‘shock’ tends to evoke certain images. But just like ‘toilet humour’, it’s actually a broad church. Not all films that shock you are about cutting off limbs or warts-and-all sex. Shock is sometimes just about taking things where you really didn’t think they would go. It’s a rare talent – most shockmeisters go for the lowest common denominators. But not Takashi Miike. Oh, he’s done his share of gut punch shock stuff, like Ichi the Killer. But in Visitor Q it’s the ones you don’t see coming that will get you.

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The visitor is never identified. In fact, some interpretations say he is not a man at all, but a devil who helps the family find balance in their perversions. However you see it, the visitor and his casual acceptance of the family’s bizarreness adds the dash of surrealism that makes Visitor Q work.

If you looked up Takeshi Miike’s work, you’ll find a surprising range. His most recent achievement was the excellent Thirteen Assassins, a samurai epic. But Miike’s reputation was forged in more extreme cinema where he pulls no punches but takes no cheap shots. Visitor Q is arguably the best of all those elements put together. It follows the Yamazakis, a particularly dysfunctional Japanese urban family. They have some serious problems. While these don’t devolve into something like cannibalism, it’s still hard to digest their particular collection of perverted baggage. Then a stranger arrives into their lives, changing them forever.

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Visitor Q would be a harbinger for Takashi Miike’s future strange creations. He followed it with the notorious Ichi The Killer, then the truly weird Gozu several years later. Miike (not pictured here) even had a cameo in Hostel – he is the Asian businessman seen leaving the building where the murders take place.

Visitor Q is a rather difficult movie to suggest. It’s brilliant, but really gets under your skin. If it wasn’t a black comedy, this might be too much to take in. Even as a satire, some might find it too unnerving to watch. But if you don’t mind venturing outside of your mental comfort zone, this is a remarkable movie. One could speculate that Miike is arguing that to understand problems and their solutions, you have to consider morality as relative. Unlike famously ‘unwatchable’ films like Salò, Visitor Q is not about showing humanity’s dark side. Instead it is a study on what it is to be human, though one take crossed the line a long, long time ago.

 

 

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: February 10, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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