The Bird People in China views like an international film festival art film with beautiful portraits of landscapes, rugged human faces, with much of quiet beauty about it. The story regards individuals from Japan journeying to a nearly inaccessible part of Japan where a race of flying bird-people is rumored to exist. The film is about the quest, not about the bird people, & will certainly be a surprise to Takashi Miike fans who've come to expect something grotesque, violent, or offensive; this quiet film is the opposite of Miike's usual presentation.
And what a bright gem of a film it is. It's not quite science fiction, but is truly mystical. A Japanese salaryman (Mashahiro Motoki) is sent to find out if his company can exploit the region for jewels, but he is soon on the look-out for a spiritual reward. His reluctant pal the bullying yakuza (gangster) is likewise drawn to a fantastic & innocent dream; this character as played by Renji Ishibashi is especially subtly & beautifully played. The great Japanese American character actor Mako gets the kind of powerful supporting role he has been to often denied in the USA, where he gets to play such things as Conan's or Chuck Norris's comic sidekick.
Bird People is such a richly textured film both visually & for character. Another director would've made it sentimental mush, but Miike makes it a genuinely transcendent journey. Anyone dissatisfied with this film's poetic ending is soulless.
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