Dead or Alive | Chicago Reader

Dead or Alive

Frenetic, then brooding, then frenetic again, this 1999 “action melodrama”—reviews describe an overarching plot; I saw almost pure abstraction—suspends its own coherence at every turn, shifting in setting, pace, and tone so dizzily that the very idea of narrative becomes beside the point. It's marvelous or unwatchable. I thought it was a collage—clips and clips of clips, whose organization takes the shape of a dramatic arc only because characters appear and reappear, seeming to want something. Then the drama dissolves into a philosophical argument only because motifs appear, seeming to mean something. There are cops and gangsters and gourmands and drug fiends and masturbators—and dogs and women (in that order). And there's an astonishingly absurdist knife-throwing scene that director Takashi Miike has described as a bit of his own “impulsiveness.” Every reviewer seems compelled to mention the scene in which a woman dies in a wading pool full of excrement. Written by Ichiro Ryu; with Riki Takeuchi and Show Aikawa. 104 min.

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