June 05, 2002


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The City of Lost Souls

Fri/7-Thurs/13, Roxie Cinema

JEAN-LUC Godard once remarked that cinema could be reduced to two basic elements: "a girl and a gun." Japanese wunderkind (and strong contender for the Greatest Living Film Director title) Takashi Miike doesn't stray far from that recipe, but he isn't afraid to pepper his soup stock with healthy doses of scatology, surrealism, and post-Situationist and post-postmodern shards of narrative. Working on a frequency transmitted between the avant-garde and action film bliss, the rising son of Japan's new wave concocts deranged, violent tales of cops, criminals, and killers that bear as much resemblance to Hollywood's thrill rides as spaghetti westerns do to the John Wayne oaters of yesteryear. Anyone lucky enough to have caught his 1999 masterpiece Dead or Alive was treated to seeing the action genre taken to its logical, apocalyptic conclusion. The prolific director created another metathriller of equal status the following year: The City of Lost Souls, a film about cross-cultural crime syndicates and interracial romance that doesn't tell a story as much as strain to contain its colliding, congealing elements in a single package. A Japanese-Brazilian con (Teah) gets out of jail, hijacks a helicopter, and rescues his Chinese girlfriend (Michelle Reis) from being deported. The couple bail out of the whirlybird somewhere in the desert but end up landing in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, where a cocaine cartel is about to negotiate a shipment. That's just the film's first 10 minutes, which leaves another 90 or so left to cram in the bullet-time cockfights, Yakuza ping-pong showdowns, impromptu capoeira street battles, and copious amounts of firepower. Things like time, geography, and logic lack a certain amount of permanence here, but the only thing harder than trying to figure out the movie's stream-of-consciousness storytelling is resisting Miike's skill and willingness to kick a warhorse genre so gleefully in the crotch. Connoisseurs and cinegeeks take note: Miike himself will be in person at the Roxie after Sunday's 7 p.m. show to bathe in your worshipful gaze. See Rep Clock for show times. (David Fear)