First Love (Hatsukoi) (2019)

Deceptively titled First Love is Takeshi Miike’s irresistibly anarchic yakuza noir, stuffed with gratuitous violence, comedy, romance and severed heads.

Dead Funny

by Alexa Dalby

First Love

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Young boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota), after being diagnosed with brain cancer accidentally crosses paths with Yurim aka Monica, (Sakurako Kanishi), a young woman who has been sold into sex slavery and in the process turned into a drug addict by her captors in order to cover her father’s debts. Is it his ghost she sees or hallucination – whichever it is, it’s absurd. Having had this terminal diagnosis, Leo just doesn’t care about danger any more so he gets involved in her life and all its gangster complications.

Meanwhile, ambitious, would-be smooth-operator yakuza Kase (Shôta Sometani) aims to enrich himself by playing his gang bosses against both the Chinese triads that threaten their patch and the police, all of who seem to be corrupt.

Rampaging through the various groups is avenging girlfriend Julie (Becky Rabone), determinedly wielding her samurai sword and refusing to die no matter what happens to her.

As all these threads weave together in the best pulp-fiction way, they lead to an absurd extended bloodbath in various locations, including a hardware store. It ends with something so credibility defying – or for budgetary reasons? – could only be expressed in animation.

It’s typical Miike, beautifully realised, and such guilty fun – who’d have thought you’d be laughing your head off at this politically incorrect surfeit of bloody decapitations?

First Love premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 14 February 2020 in the UK.

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