Seemingly back making films at a breakneck pace Takashi Miike makes it clear with For Love’s Sake (Ai To Makoto) that 13 Assassins and Harakiri, his recent period samurai remakes, were examples of him branching out further, rather than a full-blown new direction. That’s not to say that Miike is fully back to approaching the technical side of his films with his old anarchic flourishes though. For all its lurid colour palette and expressive filmmaking excesses For Love’s Sake is a technically complex and formally cohesive film that is all the more impressive to behold when one considers the rate at which Miike is making films.
Despite being technically proficient, For Love’s Sake is lacking in other areas, particularly in its story structure and the effect this has on the pace of the film. Based on an original story by Ikki Kajiwara and Takumi Nagayabu, which has seen many adaptations previously, it is hard to know without familiarity with the source material how many of the issues in the plotting are inherited but they are certainly significant.
Beginning with the introduction of Ai (Emi Takei) and Makoto (Satoshi Tsumbuki) – she an upper-class prep school high flier, he a rebel from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ – the film follows the familiar plotting of many a high school musical with a relationship between the two clearly on the cards from the outset. There are slight adjustments to this formula though, with Makoto far from interested in Ai to begin with and the addition of a number of sub-plots and additional players which certainly make for a nice twist on the norm, even if these diversions often feel somewhat unnecessary and tonally misjudged.
The pair are fully thrust together when Ai persuades her parents to pay for Makoto to attend her prep school, resulting in a number of other girls falling for his bad boy attractions, and whilst sparks do begin to fly they are not necessarily the romantic kind. Bursts of violence are not uncommon in For Love’s Sake but they mostly lead into rather toe-tappingly enjoyable dance numbers, rather than the kind of extreme gore to be found in Miike’s extensive back catalogue. Teenage gangs, in the vein of Crows Zero or Fudoh: The New Generation, begin to raise their heads in the weaker second half but they are more of distraction than a heady addition to what is in essence a lightweight, campy good time.
More Cry Baby than West Side Story, For Love’s Sake is a deliriously entertaining experience at times but is too often bogged down in a less than compelling or satisfying story. The dazzling cinematography from Nobuyasu Kita, who also worked with Miike on 13 Assassins and Harakiri amongst others, brings to mind the luridly bold colour palettes of seventies exploitation pictures – For Love’s Sake is, mostly inconspicuously, actually set during that decade – but the approach to camera movement and placement appears far more informed by the visual aesthetics one thinks of as being linked to modern music videos. It’s easy to fall head first into the musical numbers and more action packed sequences, thanks to Kita’s impressive work here, but it’s much harder to engage with the film in on a more meaningful level.
Far from the high standard set by Miike’s best works, For Love’s Sake is still a very entertaining action musical romance film – how many of those do you see after all? – and if you are willing to accept the baggy story and a certain level of distance from the characters there is still a great deal left to enjoy.