For Love's Sake
Details: 134 mins, Japan,
Synopsis: Makoto (Satoshi Tsumabuki), a delinquent, comes to Tokyo to fulfill a vow to avenge his past. Ai is the only daughter of a prominent and distinguished Tokyo family. Under normal circumstances, people from such vastly different backgrounds would never have met, but fate had different plans and the pair wind up falling in love. Meanwhile, an honors student, Iwashimizu (Takumi Saitoh), won’t stop telling Ai he’d die for her...
Violent musical mash up lacks variety.
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There were three Takashi Miike films playing at MIFF this year, which appears to be par for the course when it comes to the prolifically eclectic Japanese director, but this high energy mash-up – think Glee meets The Wanderers – may well have been the limit. After the pop energy of Ace Attorney and the astringent feudal restraint of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, For Love’s Sake didn’t travel as well as other Miike movies, although there are still distinct pleasures in this delirious hybrid.
The film is based on a 1970s manga – a genre which carries over into the anime-styled opening sequence – titled The Legend of Love & Sincerity, which has previously been adapted for both film and television in Japan. Miike tells the story of the less than gainful relationship between the rebellious Makoto (Satoshi Tsumabuki), a working class loner with rock ‘n’ roll disdain, and the wealthy scion Ai (Emi Takei), who persists in trying to better the sneering juvenile delinquent after an opening scene where she witnesses him alternating between fighting a street gang and singing a power ballad. Ai later convinces her parents to get Makoto into her prestigious prep school and then follows him to a technical college (that’s a step up from a street battle at the end of Children of Men) where he’s invariably expelled.
Most of the comparisons for the film allude to music, whether it’s the choreographed verve of West Side Story or the rocker panache of John Waters’ Cry-Baby, but the extensive songs are one of the failings in For Love’s Sake: there’s too many of them and they’re lacking in bite; this youth gone wild fantasia needs more than obvious melodies and Broadway production values. In this twisted version of 1972 Tokyo, a little bit of punk rock or electronic mayhem would have fit the bill.
Makoto is a brawler – there are no martial arts in these fight sequences – but he manages to attract not only Ai, but also the icy Yuki (Ito Ono) and sneering gang leader Gumko (Sakura Ando), although the film is less of a love square than a paean to teenage archetypes. Reality has no place in these designs – Tsumabuki is playing a high school student at the age of 31 – and Miike pushes the characters to extremes that reach surreal comic depths: Ai keeps risking her own safety to save Makoto, despite his repeated dismissals of her, while her own obsessive admirer and fellow school captain, Iwashimizu (Takumi Saito), is exposed to Gumko and her cronies when he follows Ai to the new campus.
Violence is the film’s calling card, and there are extended fight scenes leavened with Looney Tunes-style slapstick (Iwashimizu really does take a few blows to the head), but it all plays a little too closely to the period setting. There’s a little too much of the early 1970s on offer, and not even a director as slyly multi-faceted as Takashi Miike can fully see off the spectre of that accursed decade.
Watch Films Online
Films on SBS TV
SBS Film Guide to...
Celebrate Australian filmmaking with this home-grown season. Starts May 25.
A month of movies with an edge. Saturday nights in April.