Visitor Q Review
Having just watched my second Takashi Miike title (the first being the finely crafted horror Audition) I can safely say that this man pulls no punches when it comes to making films. To say I was fixated to the screen in both horror, intrigue, and fits of laughter would be no understatement. Neither would the fact that I frequently questioned why I was watching this, why the characters in the film are as they are, and what message the film was attempting to get across to the viewer yet again my attention never wavered. To attempt to get the story across to you would not only be a difficult task as I cannot admit to fully grasping the message Miike is attempting to deliver, but it would also undermine the films effect so I shall outline the basic plot and only hint at the finer details you will enjoy if you decide to watch Visitor Q
The film begins with a black screen and a simple text based question, "Have you ever done it with your Dad?". The screen then reveals a young prostitute who is teasing her next client and eventually settles a price with him, only this man is not a regular client, he is her father. Filmed in an 'off the wall' manner what proceeds to happen onscreen is both disturbing in its realism yet intriguing by its very nature. Why is this happening? A question that will be answered in time, but before then we will meet the rest of one very unsettling family who all have various stories to tell, and if you think my description of the opening scene comes across as distasteful then I would advise you relinquish any thoughts you might have had in viewing this film.
The proceedings are very much centred around the father of the Yamazaki family, Kiyoshi, a disgraced news reporter who takes his taste for a story to the extremes in an attempt to create a news report on what he believes is the story everyone in Japan wants to see, and what will ultimately gain him acceptance back into the world of video journalism. The key to this report comes in the form of the dysfunctional family Kiyoshi is the head of. The final members of which are his son Takuya who is the target of some rather vicious bullies while he himself targets his own mother with abuse, the fact she is a heroin addict only adds to the extremities Miike is so fond of.
As the title suggests a 'Visitor' is introduced to the Yamasaki household. 'Q' as he is known (only through the films title) simply goes about everyday life in the Yamasaki household as if everything was normal except of course their lives are anything but. Going some way to explain the lack of shock 'Q' exhibits you will probably not be surprised that he has no association with any of the Yamasaki family with the exception that he met Kiyoshi by bashing him on the head using a small boulder! It is the introduction of 'Q' to the Yamasaki home and Kiyoshi's yearning for a successful story that drives the events we see onscreen, to reveal exactly what the report is and the nature of the events that unfold would be detrimental to the films effect, but a little taster is not out of the question.
Almost anything you think could possibly happen does, and I am sure anything our minds can conceive of as far as sexual perversity and depravity is concerned is far surpassed with Visitor Q yet somehow it never becomes an act of exploitation but rather balances on the edge of that border due to the complete absurdity of much of the onscreen antics. In fact your mind soon becomes numb to the proceedings and after around fifty minutes of a rather serious and worried look on my face I began to find it quite hilarious (although it does take a more pronounced turn towards the comedic by the end) and indeed on subsequent viewings the entire film became a sequence of intrigue, terror and laughter throughout. Amidst some of the darkest comedy yet committed to screen and many acts that would be hard pushed to pass the BBFC uncut Miike somehow manages to progress the story beyond a simple sequence of shock set-pieces and creates an ending that is both thoroughly entertaining thanks to the sheer glee the actors carry out their actions with and most surprising of all satisfying as against all the odds this most dysfunctional of families manages to come through for each other and it is all seemingly brought about by the intervention of Visitor Q, a man who truly works in mysterious ways.
The disc under scrutiny here is one of four titles from a relatively new German publisher Rapid Eye Movies that contains English subtitles. They pride themselves in releasing Uncut Asian movies but unfortunately this lands them with a German FSK-18 certificate which makes them hard to find through the larger online German retailers.
You can however purchase them at a number of online stores (Charmes.de is one such place) or direct via Rapid Eye Movies.
Please note that despite being labelled as a Region 2 disc this release is actually Region 0.
Filmed on Digital Video and intended for the home video market Visitor Q is presented at its original 4:3 Full-Frame Aspect Ratio (despite the covers widescreen label) and this DVD presentation is true to the source material. As you would expect there are absolutely zero signs of print damage while the picture is generally very sharp and features rich colours and deep blacks. The only faults present can be attributed to the digital video source and these include jaggies and pixellation (mainly in colour gradients) and although both faults are clearly visible a number of times throughout the film they are never visible to the point of distraction. Also worth pointing out is that in the scenes involving nudity blurring has been applied which is a practice in line with Japanese censorship laws and how Visitor Q would originally have been seen.
The original Japanese soundtrack is presented here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and for a film originally intended for the home-video market serves its purpose extremely well. Dialogue is crisp while stereo separation on both the front and rear speakers is surprisingly good allowing for a sonically pleasing experience.
Optional English and German subtitles are provided utilising an easy to read yellow font and in the case of the English track, there are no spelling or grammatical errors present. My only gripe with this otherwise fine subtitle track is how the closing song has its translation halted to provide a translation of the end credits, when they could have continued the song translation elsewhere on the screen.
This is of course a German release and as you might have already guessed both the sleeve artwork and menu uses German text. Fortunately the menu system is intelligently designed and as such you should be able to navigate your way through the extra features and sound options with little trouble.
The bulk of the extra features are all text based and of course this being a German release so is the text. This makes the Takeshi Miike Biography and Interview pretty much useless to English speakers, although the Miike Filmography is still of some use. Other extra features are limited to Trailers and include the original Visitor Q Trailer which is presented Full-Frame and is certainly worth a look as it shuns the typical 'montage of film clips' approach for a screen filled with interesting animations, all of which is accompanied with dialogue from the film (sadly no subtitles are present). Finally you will also find Theatrical Trailers for Takeshi Miike's Audition and Dead or Alive alongside another Japanese film, Wild Zero, all presented in Non-Anamorphic Widescreen.
I think it is glaringly obvious that Visitor Q is not a film for everyone so if you are easily offended or disturbed then you would do well not to add this film to your 'must see' list. If however you enjoy films that go against the norm and push the boundaries of acceptable (or not) behaviour then Visitor Q will most likely delight, and of course if you are a fan Takeshi Miike's work I do not think you will be disappointed.
Currently the only way to enjoy Visitor Q with English subtitles this Rapid Eye Movies DVD release is a highly commendable effort that is only let down by its lack of extra features (even for German viewers).