Earlier in the festival we had Michael Haneke’s take on love in “Amour” and now with “For Love’s Sake” it is Takashi Miike’s turn to look at the same subject. Just as “Amour” could have only been made by Haneke, right from the opening frame of “For Love’s Sake” there is no mistaking this film as being made by anyone else but Miike.
When juvenile delinquent Makoto comes to Tokyo to enact revenge upon the person that ruined his life, high school girl Ai assumes the person is her and that she is the main reason Makoto turned to a life of petty crime. Her reasons for thinking this is because she was the cause of a deep gash on Makoto’s forehead, which left a large and very distinct scar, during a skiing accident when they were kids. In an attempt to achieve atonement for this, Ai dedicates her life to setting Makoto on the right path, even if it is unwanted. While attempting to set him straight, Ai falls head over heels for Makoto, ignoring a classmate who feels the same way about Ai herself. This boy is nicknamed “Four Eyes” by Makoto due to the glasses that he wears. However Ai might have to get in line because Makoto has the uncanny ability of making almost all the women around him fall in love with him.
Back in 2001 during the infancy of Miike’s international popularity, I saw one of the most insane films I had ever seen that was a mixture of horror and comedy but was also a musical as well. The film was “The Happiness Of The Katakuris” and it was one of the most imaginative films I had ever witnessed. After the viewing I was so pumped by the insanity of it all and I never expected to see anything close to it ever again. Well Miike has almost replicated his success of that film with the equally insane “For Love’s Sake”. I absolutely loved this film. This time around instead of horror, Miike tackles the romantic melodrama that is full of gang fights and violence and yes, it is a musical. Just like the previous film, the musical numbers in “For Love’s Sake” are ridiculous yet hilarious at the same time. What I loved about them was that each musical number had a different style from the one before it, so you were never bored due to repetition.
The film is set in the wild 70’s and throughout the film I couldn’t help thinking that this felt like a brilliant homage to the “pinky violence” films of that era. It seemed to echo the look of those films especially with the scenes involving the girl gang at the high school. Makoto himself, seemed to move like Bruce Lee during the fight scenes which I am unsure if it was intentional or not, but if so, it was done in a way that was never in your face. As opposed to the musical numbers though, there is not much variation with the fight scenes and unfortunately they do become a little repetitive especially towards the end of “For Love’s Sake”.
The look of “For Love’s Sake” was fantastic too. As usual for Miike, the film was very stylized but there was a consistency of style here that is sometimes missing in a Miike film and it thankfully didn’t become a visual mess which Miike can be accused of sometimes when he fills the screen with too much of his imagination (like in “Zebraman II” for instance). Speaking of imagination, this film is full of it, but Miike appears to have restrained himself here and doesn’t over do it and the film is better off for it.
Performance wise I thought Satoshi Tsumabuki was spot-on perfect as Makoto. He got the “couldn’t care less” attitude exactly right and he had a fair bit of spunk when he was fighting too. He also equipped himself handsomely in the emotional scenes with his mother towards the end. I also really enjoyed Takumi Saito’s love sick puppy performance as “Four Eyes”. If you remember I thought that Saito was terribly dull in “Ace Attorney” but he is hilarious here and his comic timing is superb. He is also great at taking punishment too as he is comically beaten up by everyone in this film.
My usual problem with Takashi Miike’s films pops up once again which is the extended running times although it is not as bad here mainly due to the film constantly being so inventive and entertaining. Story wise the reveal of the big “villain” seemed to come from nowhere particularly in context with the scene that played before it, so I thought that this was an aspect of the film that could have been worked on better.
Overall this was the most fun I have had with a Miike film since “The Happiness Of The Katakuris”, it was thoroughly entertaining. While I am not prepared to say that “For Love’s Sake” is better than “13 Assassins”, it is definitely its equal but the two are so different in style it makes it hard to compare. While Miike’s take on love my not be as serious as Haneke’s, the point “For Love’s Sake” makes about the topic is that true love is when you do everything in your power to make the person you love happy, even if it makes you feel the opposite. Amazingly the mash-up of comedy, romance and musicals all comes together brilliantly in “For Love’s Sake” to create a truly unique cinema experience. While the film is very silly, it surprisingly has a much deeper finale than I was expecting. In my opinion, this is Takashi Miike at the top of his game and I recommend “For Love’s Sake” to everyone and it is a shame that it only received the one screening at MIFF.