(episodes 1 & 2). 2000

Director: Takashi Miike

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

"MPD" stands for Multiple Personality Disorder, or Multiple Personality Detective. MPD-Psycho is adapted from Eiji Ootsuka's chaotically written comic book serial that was turned into even more chaotic scripts for the Japanese television mini-series. It has so many nonsensical moments that it is difficult to even find a story. There is some good actors conveying unusal characters, & there is surprisingly good photographic work compared to the usual television standard. But with such a foolish & foolishly convoluted story it's barely watchable.

A man who finds his wife's murdered body with their child ripped out of her womb is so traumatized that he splits into mulitple personalies. He becomes an avenging detective who tracks down & kills his wife's assailant, then reverts to his central personality with no memory of what he had done, then marries a look-alike for his slaughtered wife. Years later the same types of murders begin to happen again, & investigators want renewed access to the avenger-detective personality. Meanwhile there is a Manchurian Candidate type of mind control of young women going on, whose actions are controlled via techno-supernatural means, with additional young women apparently living in a different dimension "beyond the veil" as observers or orchestrators. None of it is ever very clear, & none of it seems likely to be interesting if it could be made clear.

If someone just tells you what the story is supposed to be -- that this is about a secretive pseudo-religious cult of killers with an advanced technology that requires bar codes tattooed under their eyelids directly on their eyeballs -- a little of it will finally make sense even while remaining just awfully silly. But never will all of it make sense.

The lack of clarity is partly because the original manga is itself such a convoluted mess just made up as it goes along. The filmed version is made worse by the fact that the script changes the comic book story to be even more confusing. Hence people who've read the manga & come to the telefilm believing they already know what is going on, they won't know what's going on in this version.

The irresolvable mess is made worse by the fact that this disc consists of only parts 1 & 2 of the violent surreal saga. I have no desire to track down the second disc with episodes 3 & 4. As I write this review, the final episodes 5 & 6 are not yet available subtitled for the US market, & when they do come available, I won't bother with them. Purportedly if a viewer has the patience to sit through all six parts paying close attention no matter how boring it gets, some of it begins to make a little sense with bits of resolutions & "aha!" here & there.

There are graphic scenes of violence in the film that might've given it a cheezy tasteless exploitation value, except all of it has been censored & all of the gore sequences have been pixilated out of existance. These large patches of eradicated imagery destroys Miike's pictorial compositions as well as denying the audience an opportunity to actually see what Miike filmed. For example, the most famous images from MPD-Psycho depict female victims with the tops of skulls removed & flowers planted in the exposed brain. In uncessored stills (as in the artwork for the original illustrated novel) this is creepy & aesthetically beautiful. But when such pivotal moments occur in the telefilm, the screen is fuzzed out as too brutal for television.

Miike himself, in a passive aggressive mood of rebellion, not only obeyed the censorship rules but personally went through the film & fuzzed out everything to which anyone might take offense, & extended the censorship in an exaggerative manner, supposedly to underscore the harmful effects of censorship. Miike may even have believed this exaggeration was itself an artistic device, like an art exhibition by Yoko Ono when the artist sets fire to her own work. By his act of rebellion, Miike takes his criticisms of censors out on his viewers, though frankly, Miike is no newcomer to cheating the public. Yet he has a hard-core fan base who think he's God & will commit intellectual suicide if that is what it takes to justify Miike's worst failures as merely too artful & intelligent for the common masses to grasp.

The DVD distributor claimed the uncensored footage was lost, but that's rather a fib since some of the unpixilated footage is added as a bonus feature to the third & final disc. Had anyone cared about the audience or even about the product, the right thing to have done would've been restore the footage in its proper location before releasing the DVDs. It should also have all been released simultaneously, since a "story" this needlessly complicated will not be fresh enough in mind to pick up the story six months & a year later.

Since the series is not art, is not a good story, & its potentially exciting "strange sleeze factor" has been censored, what point remains for wasting anyone's time with it? Well, since I had committed to this first third of the saga, I kept looking for any sparks of interest. The screen springs to life for as much as three or four minutes at a stretch at long intervals, like when a giddy young girl positions herself behind a television reporter at a grotesque crime scene, then calls a friend on her cellphone to find out how she looks on television. That was extremely amusing, but also somewhat suspenseful because we know that such strange young women can be mind-controlled through their cellphones. Alas, effective little asides like that are insufficient to make the whole thing worthwhile.

Comparisons of this mini-series to David Lynch's Twin Peaks were inevitable, & if Miike is honest he would have to admit to rather too much influence from Twin Peaks, because this is a bad imitation of Lynch's worst work (not that Lynch actually directed much of that series, so he isn't responsible for how lame the majority of Twin Peaks really was. Miike as director & as co-scriptwriter of MPD-Psycho scores full blame for his failure).

Miike is one of the most frustrating directors because he works from scripts written far too hastily to be worth filming at all, & he films right away before better thinking or revisions are possible, with ultra-tight deadlines on cripplingly low budgets, then he moves on quickly to the next project. He does this even with feature films, & the worsening conditions for making a television mini-series plays into the least artistic tendencies of Miike's slap-dash methods.

MPD-Psycho in its entirety is six episodes, the length of three long films, & because Miike rushes from one hasty project to another, he would in the same year finish three feature films plus additonal television work. No wonder most of it views like it was emergency-edited from scraps of a dead director's unfinished projects.

A big reason for his employment success is that he meets deadlines under budget, which becomes more important to producers than work that is actually relevant or good. In the chaos of his own success he occasionally produces work that is spectacular. When one stumbles on that percentage of his films that show genius, it causes a viewer to take chances on other of his works even when they sound sound dreadful. And like MPD-Psycho, these risks don't always pay off for the viewer, as his films can turn out to be even worse than they sounded.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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