DVD Review: Black Society Trilogy

Takashi Miike is a name which became synonymous with Asian Extreme film-making at the turn of the century. He made his name on the international stage with cult films such as Audition, Ichi the Killer and the Dead or Alive trilogy. Starting-out in the often-murky world of Japanese V-Cinema, his work is often punctuated with the over-the-top, almost cartoonish, violence and strong sexual themes. However, there is a lot more depth to his output. The films which first made his name, form a loose trilogy as such. The Black Society (or Triad) Trilogy.

Shinjuku Triad Society was Miike’s first feature film which laid-down some of the themes which have pervaded his work. As with all the trilogy, he pits Yakuza head to head with Triads. His debut sees two brothers at loggerheads. One a crooked cop. The other a lawyer for the Japanese gang. It’s also the film which introduces the director’s penchant for extreme violence and love of rain-filled shots. It’s flawed, but there are many glimpses of what’s to come.

The second film in the trilogy, Rainy Dog, looks at the relationship between a hitman (Show Aikawa), a hooker (Xianmei Chen) and his mute son. As with much of Miike’s work, it takes a fish out of water (this time a Japanese gangster stranded in Taiwan), forges and unusual alliance and throws in a family angle. Not to mention, very dark humour and manic violence. There’s never a dull moment.

Last, but certainly not least, Ley Lines. Easily the most impressive of the trilogy, Miike takes on the familiar theme of the criminal underworld and the problems faced by (second generation) immigrants. This time he brings together three misfit friends (Kazuki Kitamura, Tomorowo Taguchi & Michisuke Kashiwaya), who move to Tokyo and team up with a Chinese prostitute (Dan Li). Miike is never happier than when he’s digging below the surface and Ley Lines is up there with his best films.

Takashi Miike has turned his hand to musicals, children’s films, mainstream horror, period drama and just about everything else. However, it’s the themes within the Black Society Trilogy that he seems to return to again and again. If you want to understand how the auteur’s mind works (and it’s a term he’s thoroughly deserves), this collection of films is a must.

Special Features:

  • High Definition digital transfers of all three films

  • Original uncompressed stereo audio

  • Optional English subtitles for all three films

  • New interview with director Takashi Miike

  • New interview with actor Show Aikawa (Rainy Dog, Ley Lines)

  • New audio commentaries for all three films by Miike biographer Tom Mes

  • Original theatrical trailers for all three films

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon

   FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films

The Black Society Trilogy is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Video on Monday.

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