Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Izo



Japan 2004 : MIIKE Takashi : 128 mins

Izo utterly defies synopsis, just as it defies any attempt at objective interpretation. It defies, rejects and mocks rational analysis – indeed, it seems odd to even describe it using conventional syntax and punctuation. Instead of paragraphs, words and letters, Izo calls out for symbols, squiggles and jagged lines:


The traditional film-critic apparatus isn’t quite up to the task – but Izo could only really exist as a work of cinema, even if at times it resembles nothing less than a wildly elaborate, non-interactive video-game: the character of Izo must negotiate various “levels” as he caroms through the space-time continuum, and the body-count as he slashes his way back and forward across the decades is nothing short of astronomical.

The audience, like Izo himself, struggles to make sense of the carnage. Because Miike and scriptwriter Shigenori Takechi have abandoned linear narrative to come up with a cubist/surrealist kind of philosophical horror-comedy: try to imagine Luis Bunuel and novelists Haruki Murakami and William S Burroughs collaborating on a demented manga version of Highlander and you might be somewhere near the mark, although several of the pages seem to have been lost and the remainder jumbled randomly out of sequence.

The film often seems deliberately constructed to confront, subvert and generally question audience expectations rather than satisfy them, as keen to alienate and repel viewers as reward them for their patience. Over the course of 128 minutes, this adds up to a somewhat self-indulgent, self-parodying, wearing experience – especially as the film peters out on a wildly pretentious low-note that will leave most patrons heading to the exit in a state of bemused disgruntlement.

31st October, 2004
[seen 29th October 2004 : Odeon West End, London : public show – London Film Festival]

click HERE for Neil Young’s essay on Izo

by Neil Young