First Love is the latest entry in Japanese director Takashi Miike’s ever growing filmography. I’ve been meaning to properly sink into his works (having only seen Yakuza Apocalypse and Ace Attorney before this) but with a catalogue of over 70 films; finding a solid jumping-off point proves difficult. With First Love, I feel as though Miike has created a solid introductory point to his body of work without compromising on his style and has definitely won me over in wanting to see more of what he has to offer.
To describe the plot alone will not do it justice. The gist of it is this; a boxer named Leo (Masataka Kubota) is diagnosed with a brain tumour and meets Monica (Sakurako Konishi), a call girl who wants to move on to better things, all the while the pair keep getting caught up in the chaos of a Yakuza gang at war with itself. It’s a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time at so many different places and times. This is all punctuated with cartoonish slapstick but still manages to maintain its edge without ever losing sight of the central story and characters. In particular, the relationship between the two leads has a genuine heart to it and creates an emotional core to the story. This allows for the exaggerated world the film revels in to feel like a natural extension of its quirky style rather than ever deflating tension by turning to pure farce.
The action also remains consistently engaging and blends in with the previously mentioned slapstick very well. It gives the film a unique edge and allows for a lot of variety in fight scenes. It never just resorts to a simple gunfight, always spicing it up in funny and engaging ways. It’s fast paced, cutthroat and all comes together in a chaotic, hilarious and perfectly over-the-top finale.
Watching First Love is like riding sidecar in a motorbike with director Takashi Miike at the helm, guiding you through his vision. It’s totally personality driven and over the course of it you begin to better understand Miike’s sense of humour and filmmaking style. It feels like a perfect amalgamation of the hyper-stylised and effortlessly cool films of Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim vs The World) along with the bumbling incompetence of criminals that you’d find in the Coen brothers works (Fargo, Burn After Reading). But really, this is Miike’s film through and through. Recommended to film nuts and those looking for a crime movie with a little something extra to offer.
Promotional image obtained from: Brisbane International Film Festival (2019), First Love.
Retrieved from: https://biff.com.au/event/first-love/