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The Bird People in China (1998)
"Chûgoku no chôjin" (original title)

7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 3,351 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 37 critic

A salaryman and yakuza are each sent by their bosses to a remote Chinese village but discover more then they expected.

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(screenplay), (novel)
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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Renji Ishibashi ...
...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Michiko Kichise
Yuichi Minato ...
(as Yuuichi Minato)
Tomohiko Okuda
Manzô Shinra
Li Li Wang ...
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Storyline

A young Japanese salaryman is sent by his company to a remote Chinese village to evaluate precious Jade that is found there, but before he arrives meets the yakuza who was sent to tail him to protect his bosses interest in the company. When the men finally arrive their mission become sidetracked by their interest in a mysterious young village girl, her haunting English language song and the secret that makes men fly like birds. Written by Danny Leary

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Release Date:

10 June 1998 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Chûgoku no chôjin  »

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User Reviews

 
Another Masterpiece from the Indefatigable Miike (Possibly My Favorite of His)
7 January 2006 | by (Houston, TX (where the cows come from)) – See all my reviews

Takashi Miike is the living definition of the word "indefatigable". In a career that began in the early 1990s, he has directed a staggering number of films in a mind-boggling array of different genres, from horror to family films, even a musical (!); but Miike is probably best known for his Yakuza (Japanese gangster) films. The likes of FUDOH, ICHI, and DEAD OR ALIVE, with their over-the-top violence and surreal (often disgusting) setpieces, are Miike's chief claim to fame. In one respect that's a pity, because every once in a while, Miike will produce a wild card, and BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA is a film that fits into that latter category. The man character is a young Japanese executive named Mr. Wada (Masahiro Motoki), who is sent by his boss to a remote region in the wilds of China to survey a supposedly rich jade mine. He is joined on his trip by a Yakuza named Ujiie (Renji Ishibashi), who plans on taking the jade as payment for some outstanding debts on the part of Wada's boss. After they are taken as far as the train will go, Wada and Ujiie are met by their guide, the absent-minded Mr. Shen (scene-stealer Mako), who takes them through the rugged, unsettled terrain of rural China, first on foot, and then on a raft pulled by several huge sea turtles. When the three men finally reach their destination, a village left untouched by the ravages of industrialization, Wada and Ujiie have a few epiphanies that will prove to make leaving rather difficult. It sounds like a simple story, and it is, but there's something about this film that makes it great, but that I find hard to articulate. No doubt the startlingly beautiful cinematography by Hideo Yamamoto has a lot to do with the film's hypnotic quality. And then there's the genuinely touching story of two men who discover a whole other side to themselves that they were never previously aware existed. And finally, the film's deft blend of genres is seamless: it shifts gears from a screwball/buddy comedy to a jungle-bound adventure to an existential rumination on identity and civilization, finally ending on a dream-like note of perfect serenity. There is one scene of Yakuza violence that seems inserted to remind us that we're watching a Miike film, but it's fleeting and, compared to some of what can be found elsewhere in his films, it's utterly tame and inoffensive. There's also an ecological message packed into the mix. So, final verdict: for fans of Miike who wonder what else the man is capable of, I highly recommend BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA, surely the gentlest and most poignant of all the man's movies (at least that I've seen). For the truly open-minded aficionado, there is much to be enjoyed here.


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