2019 Milwaukee Film Festival – Review – FIRST LOVE
Somehow, Takashi Miike has eluded me over the years despite his prolific output. Renowned for his wild films, he’s pretty much the perfect director if you’re going to program a “midnight movies” series like Cinema Hooligante, which is right up my alley. With FIRST LOVE playing at the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival, I was determined to correct that oversight. And I was glad that I did.
Leo (Masata Kubota) is a boxer, a good one albeit without much enthusiasm, who discovers he has a brain tumor. Monica ( Sakurako Konishi) is a Yakuza sex slave who hallucinates ghosts. Through a random series of events they meet and then have to survive the night when a planned drug heist goes wrong and the finger points their way.
That sounds way more serious than the film actually is. This is a film that will literally do a match cut from Leo knocking a boxer out to a decapitated head rolling into the street. And the head blinking in disbelief as the killer puts his sword into a golf bag complete with cute club covers. We have crooked cops, Yakuza – Chinese gang rivalries, double crosses, double agents, and actions and plot twists coming fast and furious. Conspirators try to cover their tracks and the body count keeps rising. Would be victims turn the tables. And the film just gets bigger and bigger as events spiral out of control.
Despite all that, FIRST LOVE is still somewhat good natured. Leo and Monica make a nice, shy couple that get to know each other as empathetic people over the course of the night. In one of the best scenes, Leo shares his earbuds with Monica which makes the ghost, in his tighty whities, dance which turns her fear into humor. It’s absurd but somehow sweet.
No doubt, FIRST LOVE is about as deep as a puddle. But, FIRST LOVE is a gonzo, fast paced, blast with enough empathetic characters to make it a bit more than a guilty pleasure. Directed with energy and wit by Takashi Miike, it’s the kind of movie that give midnight movies a good name.
FIRST LOVE plays once more at the Milwaukee Film Festival on Thursday, October 24th at 9:45 pm at the Oriental Theatre West. The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 17, 2019 to October 31, 2019. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website mkefilm.org.