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Archive for October 21st, 2012

Machisu, the only son of a rich collector, has a child’s love for painting. Praise from a famous artist friend of his father inspires the young boy to dream of becoming a painter himself. Precocious Machisu begins to paint everyday and everywhere, even during class, to the dismay of his teacher. When tragedy strikes, little Machisu’s privileged life ends, leaving him orphaned, but with an incomparable passion for art. As a young man, poor loner Machisu manages to attend art school with money earned from working. He is introduced to an unconventional world of bold creativity but he also gets his first bitter taste of harsh criticism from a dealer. Encouragement comes in the form of attractive clerk Sachiko who is convinced that she alone understands him. Marriage is soon followed by a daughter, as love and hope drive Machisu to commit even more deeply to his art. Upon reaching middle age, Machisu has yet to sell a painting. But he remains dedicated, supported by his devoted wife Sachiko, who has become his indispensable creative partner. With each new work, Machisu tries to push himself to greater limits of inspiration. Hungry for recognition, their creative attempts escalate beyond what neighbours and even their own teenaged daughter Mari can tolerate. Will Achilles ever overtake the Tortoise?

Achilles and The Tortoise was Takeshi Kitano’s final installment of a trilogy that he started out with Takeshi’s and Glory To The Filmmaker in which he pokes fun about his own persona. This movie focuses on art as Kitano himself is quite an artist and some of his paintings has even featured in some of his movies. The opening animated scene explains the bizarre title of the movie. The story is simply of an artist from childhood to middle age as he tries to be a success but never quite getting there. It is essentially a three part movie with three actors playing Machisu – one as a child, one as a young adult and one in middle age and each part has a different feel to them. As we see throughout the movie, the problem with Machisu is that despite his determination and some rather odd and macabre subjects he paints, his style simply isn’t original (he copies a lot from other famous artists) which makes most galleries shun his work. The story is also quite tragic but this being Takeshi Kitano there’s also a mix of surrealism and some dark humour in the plot as well – for example a scene shows Machisu’s daughter lying dead on a mortuary table. Only Takeshi Kitano could turn this into quite a controversial but funny moment as he smears lipstick on the face of his dead daughter in order to try and create something artistic out of it. The middle section of the movie which sees a group of art students attempting to create ‘destructive’ art is also very funny. Kitano really rips into ‘modern art’ and in particular the value that some are fetching on the markets today. It is shown through many examples in the movie that the high value of some art is only there if some idiot is willing to listen to some clap trap by an art dealer and persuaded to buy the item. Machisu is seen to be a selfish person whose quest for making art costs him everything – his family, friends, money and health. Any other sane person would probably stop, take stock of everything that’s happened and move on to do something else but not Machisu. He is stubborn and refuses to change.

After quite a slow start, the movie improves dramatically and really excels during the final segment when Kitano himself takes over the role of Machisu and is a darkly look at the extremes he will go to create art. The movie is very enjoyable to watch and features a good ensemble of cast members especially Kanako Higuchi as Machisu’s long suffering wife. Probably two hours was just a bit too long to get the story across. This movie might not be up there with Kitano’s best but I would still recommend it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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