Fantastic Fest 2019 Review: FIRST LOVE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Japanese filmmaker extraordinaire Takashi Mikke brought his latest movie to Fantastic Fest this year and the it’s definitely a fun, crazy and violent affair. Mikke’s latest piece presents a true romance amidst criminal power plays, serendipitous circumstances, and filters it through a slightly heightened reality where anything can happen. The mad and ingenious filmmaker throws in some wonderfully realized characters and a delightfully mad sense of humor in the mix.

Low-rent boxer Leo (Masata Kubota) discovers that he is dying and doesn’t have much longer to live. On one fateful night, he literally collides with a drugged out prostitute named Monica (Sakurako Konishi) and an armed killer who seeks to end her life. This collision drives Leo to defend and protect Monica, though both he and she don’t know that her killing is tied in with a power play involving corrupt cops, Yakuza, and Chinese Triads.

Written by Masaru Nakamura, Takashi Mikke’s First Love is a wild and often hilarious dose of Japanese pulp cinema. What makes Mikke’s film so enjoyable is his ability to blend the real, surreal, comedic, romantic, abdurd, and intense in such a way that makes perfect sense. It is a delightful slice of cinema that feels inspired by pulpy Japanese Manga and Anime. It is a movie that is sure to reel in new fans of Mikke and one that should please those already familiar with some of his prolific work.

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