As far as I can recall Takeshi Miike’s Rainy Dog (極道黒社会 1997) wasn’t released in the theaters in Taipei, instead I watched it in an MTV with a few friends, ca. 1999. An MTV is basically a living room you can rent, with room service. You pay a fee (US2$ in those days), pick a few movies off the rack, and the guy escorts you to your own private AV space with sofas. There’s a bigass television, a DVD player and sound system that isn’t too terrible. Young folks who have no where else to make out go to MTVs, but my friends and I just went there to watch movies, smoke, and eat cheap food. Although I sometimes went alone, usually it was with the Crew: my Korean friend Y-C and the young Japanese kid, H.–and sometimes the girls (also Korean and Japanese), though none of us had a romantic interest in them. Once though, while I was searching through the DVDs (these places had huge movie collections), a truly hot young lady came up to me and asked what I was thinking of watching. I averred I hadn’t a clue because my friends were nearby, and she said she wanted to watch this –> (some Harrison Ford movie) while leaning in close to me. That was one of the few times women have ever hit on me, so whenever I think of MTVs…But I digress.
Anyway, the movie takes place during Taiwan’s Plum Rains, in May, and is about an exiled yakuza living in Taipei. He works as a freelance assassin but his day job is in a slaughter house, and one night, after work, he silently watches a young man stabbed to death in a back alley. One day, out of the blue, a woman shows up with a kid she claims is his, and leaves yelling “The kid’s a mute” from the window of the taxi. Of course the yakuza, aka Rainy Dog, is a misanthropist and hitman so he wants to have nothing to do with the kid. But the kid refuses to go away, and how can he really? He’s got no fucking place to go and can’t speak. Miike made the film on a tiny budget and it’s full of gangster cliches, but the thing pulls at you in strange ways, especially if you’ve ever lived in East Asia for any length time. It’s hard to explain but seeing Taipei, my city, filmed in this stylish way as the seasonal rains pour down, really made an impression on me–as did the other films in the Black Society Trilogy (黒社会三部作: Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, and Ley Lines) when I saw them.
All this makes me want to go see what MTVs are like nowadays, but unfortunately only that one chain is still in business.