TAKESHIS’ (director/writer: Takeshi Kitano; cinematographer: Katsumi Yanagishima; editors: Takeshi Kitano/Yoshinori Oota; music: Nagi; cast: ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano(Beat Takeshi), Akihiro Miwa (Himself), Ren Osugi (Takeshi’s Manager/Taxi Driver), Kotomi Kyono (Takeshi’s Girl Friend/Kitano’s Female Neighbor), Susumu Terajima (Takeshi’s Friend/Kitano’s Yakuza Neighbor), Tetsu Watanabe (TV Wardrobe Master/ Noodle Cook /Audition Actor), Kayoko Kishimoto (Mahjong Parlor Woman/Audition Producer/Customer); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Masayuki Mori/Takio Yoshida;Bon Zai; 2005-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“It’s a film in need of a therapist for the star.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is the 12th film by the eccentric Japanese filmmaker and actor Takeshi Kitano (“Sonatine”/”Fireworks”/ “Violent Cop”). It’s an incomprehensible violent, surrealistic fantasy black comedy that I had a tough time getting into and found it the least enjoyable of his films–most of which I liked. The film has no plot; it divides Kitano into two people and asks us to follow the fantasy world of each. One is the self-important famous actor-director Beat Kitano and the other a meek elderly man named Kitano, the blond lookalike of the actor, who is a convenience store clerk waiting for his big break as an actor as he goes to auditions where he’s mostly humiliated. When their paths cross, the cashier starts hallucinating about becoming Beat. All the actors have double roles in this puzzling personal film, with Kitano in several disguises (like Jerry Lewis at his most obnoxious) behaving in an egocentric manner; it’s a follow-up to his successful ‘Zatoichi,’ with the filmmaker at the height of his popularity. The unwieldy and supposedly groundbreaking film, follows each Kitano character as he fantasizes about his life. The narrative doesn’t count here, as the enjoyment (if any) is in the colorful visuals, the sight gags, the in jokes, the referencing to all Kitano’s other films, and the sounds. The humor probably goes over better for a Japanese audience familiar with the cultural nuances, as much of the funny stuff went right by this westerner. At the Venice Film Festival Kitano said, “I want audiences to come out of this film not knowing what to say or what to think.” He’s right about not knowing what to say, but I know what to think: this film is awful. It’s a film in need of a therapist for the star, as Kitano’s attempt to reconcile his various personalities by following the same riffs repeated over and over come to no good end. If its purpose was to be a confessional film for the viewer to get to know Kitano better, that failed. If it was to make an entertaining film, that failed. If it was to make a thoughtful film, that failed. But if its purpose was to make an unpredictable film that makes you scratch your head, then it succeeds. In its defense, this is a film that merits repeated viewings before judging, which I haven’t done. It’s so strange and hard to get to in one sitting, that it perhaps needs time to be digested. Kitano fans, who I would think are the only ones likely to appreciate the film, would best reserve judgment until they can figure out what is really happening here. I plan on watching this film again and reserve the right to change my opinion, if warranted. Because I feel Kitano is an unusual filmmaker, possessing artistic integrity, I’m willing to say that the fault may be in the viewer’s eyes not accustomed to what he’s experiencing and not in the film. Nevertheless, as for now, I’ll stick with my first impression.
REVIEWED ON 6/17/2008 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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