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  • Benjamin May

Eyecatch Junction (1991)

One can never be sure what they'll find when going into a Takashi Miike picture. The man has shot so many films in a variety of genres, some comedies, some horrors, a musical- he can do anything. 'Eyecatch Junction'- the first released film by Miike, though the second he shot- is a giddily light comedy that contains whispers of the dark, strange eroticism found in much of the director's later work. An underwear thief is on the loose, who targets college girls with a preference for silk. Three policewomen form a vigilante group to catch the fiend, but before long the situation becomes more complicated and violent than any of them expected.

The wild story and screenplay are credited to Hiro Masaki and Akio Takemoto, and their work is frequently funny, oftentimes over-blown and always bizarre. Their dialogue is so melodramatic and saccharine sweet at times it'll rot your teeth, though there are clever lines throughout that'll surely make you laugh. The story contains some very macabre moments too, and frankly the juxtaposition between the dark and light elements of the narrative doesn't quite work. A plastic-covered scene of eroticism- while beautifully photographed and directed- is jarring amidst a sea of weird comedy (male cops nose-bleeding while leering is a recurring motif) and the goofy antics of the vigilante trio.

The tone of the film is muddled, which admittedly is a purposeful element to many Miike films. He 'genre-hops,' adding a slice of comedy here, a bit of drama there; usually to great effect. 'Audition' is not just a horror, it's more than that, the story has emotional depth and genuine dramatic power. 'Dead Or Alive 2: Birds' is not just a thriller, it's a meditation on the importance of family, of friendship. 'Gozu' is... oh so many things. In 'Eyecatch Junction' though, the genre-schizophrenia comes across as more confused (and confusing) than intentional.

The cinematography from Shigeru Komatsubara is assured and undeniably stylish, not to mention a lot more artful than most straight to video films of the period. In the latter half in particular are some shots that linger in the mind long after the credits have rolled; the aforementioned plastic-covered scene especially. The soundtrack from Tomio Terada is catchy, highly atmospheric and evocative, though- like the cinematography- has a tendency towards the garish.

The cast all perform admirably, with Hiroko Nakajima as the central character Makoto and Risa Tachibana as a lab technician with an interest in the group impressing the most. Nakajima brings to her role a dignified air and a resolve that is both appealing and effective, while Tachibana is something of the comic relief, and has a ditsy aura reminiscent of a young Teri Garr. Both ladies turn in strong performances that are rather memorable and certainly entertaining.

That can be said of the film overall: it is certainly entertaining. While by no means is it Takashi Miike's best work, it isn't his worst either. 'Eyecatch Junction' is a fun, mindless comedy that has great performances from a dedicated cast, a breezy soundtrack and stylish visuals. There are also some moments that foreshadow the dark, intriguing films Miike was to go on to make, and whether or not these work in the overall context of 'Eyecatch Junction'; it's interesting to see how his style evolved and how those elements became one of the hallmarks of his directorial modus operandi. In short, there's surely enough in 'Eyecatch Junction' to catch your eye and keep it fixed.


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