The Bird People in China (Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Rnji Ishibashi, Makoto 'Mako' Iwamatsu and Li Li Wang
Artsmagic Ltd
RRP US $25.99
ATU 013
Certificate: Not Rated (US)
Available 16 November 2004

Japanese businessman, Wada, has been dispatched, by his company, to examine a small Chinese village in the middle of nowhere in order to survey a strain of Jade, which is rumoured to have been found. If the strain is profitable, then his company will move in and mine the site. On the way to the village he comes into contact with a Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) member called Ujjie who is keen to secure the jade, and it's profits for his organisation. Along with their guide, Shen, the two set out on a journey that will change their lives forever.

Takashi Miike's 1998 movie The Bird People in China (originally titled Chűgoku no Ch˘jin), illustrates beautifully why Miike is the master of Japanese cinema. This feel-good movie takes the viewer on a voyage of their own - if you think you know Miike's work, then think again.

Unlike the Hollywood mangle, Miike is left to switch from genre to genre. Can you imagine Quentin Tarantino making anything other than a Quentin Tarantino movie? The same can be said of Martin Scorsese, or any one of a dozen western directors. The Hollywood machine doesn't allow directors to play with the art form. They are instantly pigeonholed in one genre or another so that their audiences can be spoon-fed the same bland offering, neatly repackaged, time and time again.

So, Miike's The Bird People in China will knock his fan base for six. While the Yakuza has a representative here, in the form of Ujiie, this is not a movie about the Japanese Mafia - far from it. While there are echoes of Miike's telltale violence, they are fleeting and are channelled entirely through Ujiie, this tale is weaved around businessman Wada and his experiences.

The first half of the movie is centred around the three travellers - all from very different backgrounds, and each with their own goals. From the films opening scene, to its beautifully heart-warming last, viewers are in for an emotional journey. There's even the inclusion of an old Scottish folk song: Annie Laurie, which is haunting under the conditions that it is sung.

Extras include an interview with the director, commentary with Tom Mes, original trailer, bios/filmographies and previews.

A beautiful movie, both visually and emotionally, which will leave you with a warm glow long after the closing credits have rolled.

Pete Boomer

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