Assigned to investigate a potentially lucrative jade deposit in the deepest reaches of interior China, Tokyo salary man Wada (Motoki) travels to Yunan province with a nasty, violent yakuza boss, Ujiie (Ishibashi), in tow. What he discovers there — a captivating, blue-eyed local girl (Wang) who warbles a mysterious song and says she is teaching village children to fly — will change his life forever.
Miike is best known for surreal horror flicks and yakuza epics like “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer,” but this soulful road movie finds him in a more contemplative and subdued mood, even if his characteristic bursts of fairy-tale weirdness and sudden violence are still in evidence. What’s so startling is the sensitive way he handles Wada’s spiritual odyssey into the heart of China, with nothing more at hand than an old Irish ballad and a pair of bamboo wings. “Bird People” soars to mystical heights.