A Review of The Bird People in China: My Youth Restored

By Austin Lieber                                                                                      June 9th, 2014

Takashi Miike directed the unpredicted movie of 1998, Bird People in China, to near perfection. This film is well suited for the East Asian Cinema enthusiast as well as any other individual looking for a fantasy-based adventure. This film, however, stray’s from his typical style of directing, as Takashi is known for violent and intense action. Miike’s intent with this film, meanwhile, was to make it into a semi-fantasy adventure, a new direction for the 38-year-old Chinese director. He succeeded in turning the plot of this movie into an almost fairytale of an adventure, one that places the audience member right in the backseat of their broken van. The focus of the movie was indirectly on the villagers of Yunan province, but the main plot centers around two individuals from Japan: Mr. Ujiie and Mr. Wada. They are two businessmen on a trip to find a vein of jade in China.

His overall use of medium long and long shots, as well as what he decided to keep in the frame throughout the movie, were effective in creating a convincing story. The setting throughout the story was accentuated by his use of longer shots. While keeping the main characters in focus at a distance, Takashi reveals more of the setting for the audience. This only further underscores the exotic and seemingly magical trip the characters are on. Furthermore, Miike only kept rural settings within the frame, making sure to disappear any modernization that might be present.

Miike focuses the first half of the film on the adventure these two men go through before they reach the village in China. At each step of the way, Miike uses the setting to create this surrealistic adventure; he displays exotic shots of China, both rural and developed. The further they travel into China, the more exoticism the audience is exposed to.  When the two men and their guides reach the village, tall mountains sticking out of the ground surround them. It is at this point the true adventure begins.

Miike builds the rest of the movie around character growth and development. The original plot is lost and a new one takes its place. This new plot actually becomes the backbone to the lifelong friendship that Mr. Wada and Mr. Ujiie form. Their friendship and life adventure are what make this movie such an effective fantasy. By the end of this movie, I was so far away from the room I was sitting in, that I felt like a kid watching E.T. for the first time.

Miike’s film transported me to a land of fantastical wonderment and possibility. Although this movie was not a gangster-like, violent, intense action movie, Takashi had success with this movie because of how real he makes it feel to the audience. This film is a truly great adventure that I recommend for anyone, especially if you appreciate a film with an exotic and surrealistic plot line.

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