by Del Harvey
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Japanese director Takashi Miike is known for being offbeat and often defying definition, such as the vastly different styles and themes of The Happiness of the Katakuris as compared to his own strange take on a dysfunctional family in Visitor Q. Or the absurdity of Ichi the Killer or the cartoonish qualities of Full Metal Yakuza. Yet, there is a similarity to all these films which is part of Miike’s trademark style.
Into this mix we throw Sabu, a made for Japanese television movie taking place during the era of the Samurai, although there are none to be seen here. Sabu is about two young boys and their lifelong friendship, and the incident which marks their lives forever. More importantly, it is about luck, and how life’s odd turns can take us far from our well-charted courses.
The boys are Sabu and Eiji. When Eiji is arrested for stealing from his boss, no one can believe it. Least of all his good friend Sabu. Eiji is sent to a workfarm island for three years hard time, and his faithful boyhood friend Sabu visits often, refusing to believe him guilty, even when his friendship is refused by Eiji.
Instead of the usual strangeness and perversity, Miike treats us to a warm drama overflowing with humanity, told in a simple, graceful style. Sabu is remarkable as a glimpse of the uniqueness of this individual director’s body of work. It is also a pleasant surprise.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, and teaches screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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