The City of Lost Souls

The City of Lost Souls (2000) movie poster

(2000) dir. Takashi Miike
viewed: 04/01/02

Strange gangster film from Japan, centered in multi-cultural Tokyo’s Brazilian/Japanese sub-culture.

Stylishly shot, with a true “pop” sensibility, the film seemed somewhat fresh take on the yakuza film. The film seems to address some aspects of Tokyo’s multiculutalism, partiularly its Brazilian minority. The protagonist of the film, Mario, is played by Teah, who looks, like the character he portrays, to be Brazilian/Japanese. He is a cool, slick, mod-dressed, gun-toting hero, a man of few words. His beautiful moll of a girlfriend, Kei, is Chinese. Both are cultural outsiders to the traditional gangster milieu, and both are characterized by their beauty and hipness.

One of the main villains of the film is Chinese, an effeminate, bondage-obsessed killer, who expresses his anti-Japanese racism to the more traditional Japanese yakuza character.

I would be hard pressed to analyze the meanings of each characters’ representation, as there were a lot of characters to keep up with and it was easy to get a bit lost. There are several languages spoken throughout the film, a significant portion of which seemed to be in Portuguese.

The film’s subtitling was amusingly poor. The title of the film in English is The City of Lost Souls, but on DVD, it is presented as The City of Lost Sales, which I am guessing is a double mis-translation, (1) wrong homynym and (2) wrong vowel. Which would make this potentially seem to be perhaps instead a film in which Willy Loman might show up.

From my single viewing, I can say that it seems clear that the film is addressing issues of multiculturalism, but what exactly it is trying to say might be a little more tough to pin down.

So, I will leave it at that, for now.

Also, there was a truly bizarre cockfighting sequence in which the roosters were digitally animated. The truly bizarre extreme was hit when one of the roosters leapt up into a “Matrix” style kick, in which the camera swerved around the scene, as the bird hangs in mid-air, just before dealing the death blow. This strange, humorous “aside” for the film was not a-typical, but was truly weird.

Also, the DVD I had rented of this film got stuck a lot on the second side (it was like an old laser disc that had to be flipped half-way through — also strange and unfortunate), which impeded the last 20-30 minutes for me consdierably.

Overall, though, the film was definitely interesting. Several of Miike’s films had come through town last year and I had missed them all, and this was the first of his films that I found on DVD. I will keep my eyes out for the others, which I have read are supposed to be stronger, Audition and Dead or Alive.

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