Ichi the Killer
by Takashi Miike
Rented this last night. Is there such a complaint as “gratuitous entrails?” Well, if you can get past them, this is actually an incredible film. Besides being beautifully shot, Ichi works out some of the issues involved with gang violence, revenge killings, childhood memories, and mayhem. He doesnt give us answers, but in the process of creating explanations for the characters’ violence, he comes up with one interesting take on Sadism: “giving pain” as an act of compassion.
This is interesting. The sadist should treat his victim w/ compassion, enjoy the pain his victim is feeling, and give it well (with the usual Japanese attention to skill and craft). If this were possible, the sadist would at the same time have to be a masochist — would have to appreciate or feel pleasure in pain, if not from his own experience then enough at least to feel it from the victim’s point of view. Seems like a conceptual mistake: can a masochist leverage his pleasure in taking pain into sadistic performances? Is not the sadist required to deliver a cold and almost industrial torture? How could the sadist be compassionate?
There’s another thing going on, too, and here I’m thinking out loud and not quite able to put my finger on it. There’s a kind of affectless body in these films. The body that is dismembered is not the lived-in body of a subject, a character–with motivations, etc etc. It’s a body as prop, as squirting and visceral prop in these situations. What is this aesthetic? Should we fear it? Is it reification, alienation, of the subject? Is it an objectification of the physical and a sick desire to mistreat it? Is this all we are for — flesh?
I’m reminded, though i haven’t seen it, of Gibson’s Passion of Christ. Would that be the sacrifice made — a sacrifice of flesh only? Is spirit in flesh, and sacrifice in the act of bleeding? And does a bleeding body suffer pain if it only bleeds, if the fact of bleeding is rendered as a quality of flesh and meat?
This would all be uninteresting and irrelevant if it weren’t for the power of aestheticizing these things. And it’s a lot more real on film than it is in video games. …