Takashi Miike on First Love

Takashi Miike’s latest feature First Love concerns amateur boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota) and call girl Monica (Sakurako Konishi) who accidentally get mixed up in a drugs scheme involving the yakuza, the Chinese mafia, and a dirty cop. A full review can be found here.

First Love received early screenings in New York City on September 17th at both the Angelika Film Center and Alamo Draft House, both followed by a Q&A with director Miike. The following responses are taken from the Q&A session at the Angelika Film Center.

Miike discussed the origin of the film, saying that most of the films that are currently popular in Japan are love stories that cater to young people so he wanted to rebel against that. Toei approached him to direct a low-budget, V-Cinema type of film, so he accepted the invitation. Miike also talked about how he feels all of his films are essentially the same, no matter how many he makes, but he still enjoys working, even after making more than 90 films in his highly prolific career. The director also talked about how he has many more fans in America and Canada than in Japan, and he enjoys seeing his films playing at festivals across North America. He’s grateful to the fans that keep coming to see his films, mostly in the horror and crime/yakuza genres, even though they are decidedly chaotic.

Miike was asked about the casting of the two leads of First Love. Miike discovered Kubota while conducting casting for a television show and decided to cast him in 13 Assassins (2010). Konishi is new to acting and Miike said he knew she was the one for the role early in the audition process. She had very little experience and he actually didn’t think her acting ability very good. However, he thought her motivation and drive to be good, not to mention her nervousness, would make for a realistic portrayal of a girl sold into prostitution by a father who owes at lot of money to the yakuza.

When asked by an audience member if First Love was also Miike rebelling against his earlier films, since this one has a fairly happy ending while most others never do, the director replied, “You’re absolutely right. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little bit softer…I would love for everyone to be happy all the time but that’s easier said than done…”

He explained that, with First Love, he was taking characters who don’t necessarily have any intention to cause chaos, but that out of that chaos we find Leo and Monica. As such, the film does end up turning into a love story, although definitely one that is far from typical. “No matter how bad things are you can still find happiness.”

First Love opens in the US on September 27, 2019, before its Japan opening in February, 2020, which is a rare release pattern for a Japanese film.