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Archive for the ‘Takeshi Kitano’ Category

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Takeshi Kitano is a director that’s best known for his gangster movies and he makes a statement saying he wants to ditch making those kind of movies and try something new. We see him attempting a variety of different genres but everything turns out to be a failure before he decides on the setting for his latest venture – a sci-fi comedy drama called The Promised Day. The plot of this movie involves an asteroid which is scheduled to slam into the Earth in a week’s time. Scientists discover that this asteroid has 2 faces on it resembling a mother and daughter which the movie cuts back to on Earth. Kumiko and Kimiko are two eccentric characters who are in debt and are on the lookout for the latest scam to make money. Their latest money-making scheme involves a president of a company and his consort Kichijoji who they mistake to be his son because he dresses like a school kid. The movie charts the women’s madcap adventures with a plan to get Kimiko to marry Kichijoji .

I’m sure some people have no idea that Takeshi Kitano was a full-time comedian before he turned his hand to being a director in the 90’s and started making yakuza movies. Even though those movies have been successful, he always wanted to make a comedy movie. His first attempt at a comedy ‘Getting Any’ wasn’t that well received (I thought it was quite funny!) so he went back to the yakuza genre. He tried again at making a dark comedy movie with ‘Takeshis’ which audiences liked so then he came round to doing this movie. In this part mockumentary, part sci-fi comedy, Kitano is making fun of himself once more. Whilst ‘Takeshis’ poked fun at the work he’s done so far, this movie makes fun at genres that Kitano hasn’t tried out in his movies yet. The first half which sees Kitano attempting various genres such as a period drama and a j-horror movie is funny but it’s during the second half when The Promised Day is played that the movie really comes into its own. It’s wacky, insane, totally off-the-wall and some of the stuff that went on in this movie did go over my head although I’m sure that Japanese audiences understood everything very well. The mother and daughter combination (Kumiko and Kimiko) are the main characters in this movie and are very eccentric with one carrying a giraffe doll on her back and the other has a goose puppet on her arm. There are some genuinely funny sequences in the movie. One such scene takes place at a restaurant where Kumiko and Kimiko are trying another scam in which hope to get a free meal by placing a cockroach in their meal and complaining about it. Unfortunately a couple of wrestlers are eating in the restaurant at the same time and find a cockroach in their meal. When they start to complain a couple of burly muscular waiters emerge from the back. What follows is a wild wrestling fight inside the restaurant which spills out outside in which the wrestlers are destroyed by the waiters. The expression on the faces of Kumiko and Kimiko with all this chaos going on all around them is priceless and they decide to drop their plan! Another scene at a karate dojo is also very funny. If the scenes above sounds like something you might find humorous then you will enjoy the movie. Not everything works in this movie mind you but the majority of the jokes do hit their mark. Unfortunately the movie does run out of steam by the end.

GLORY TO dl 3

Takeshi Kitano plays himself in the movie or should I say the Beat Takeshi character when he was a manzai comedian and he carries around a lifesize doll of himself which takes his place in certain situations when he feels under pressure, uncomfortable or in a tight squeeze (i.e the doll gets beaten up by some thugs or thrown over the side of a bridge)! Kayoko Kishimoto and Ann Suzuki are fantastic as the mother and daughter Kumiko and Kimiko. The rest of the supporting cast are actors that Kitano regularly employs in his movies.

Glory To The Filmmaker is sure to divide opinion but then again I don’t think this movie is for everybody. He’s made this for his fans and only they will appreciate this movie. It all depends if you like his style of comedy whether you’ll enjoy this movie or not. The viewer gets an idea of what type of humour Kitano likes and how his imagination works. I love how he makes fun of himself in such a self-deprecating manner. I found the movie to be surreal, rather unique and very funny.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Outrage_Beyond

The story is set a couple of years after the events of Outrage. Otomo is in prison for his actions and his enemy Kato sits nicely on top of the Sanno yakuza empire after betraying his former boss.  Helping Kato out as his no.2 is Ishihara, a traitor who betrayed Otomo. Dissension starts to occur within the Sanno family with some members unhappy that Ishihara is leading them on a path that they aren’t familiar with (politics) and all the while pushing the old guard out of the picture. Into the mix comes a police inspector Kataoka who hears of the troubles inside Sanno and due to the non-cooperation from Kato he plans to destroy them. His first action is to release Otomo early from his prison sentence to stir things up as he has a score to settle with Kato and  Ishihara and then have him form an alliance with the Hanibishi family.  Otomo’s release from prison makes the upper echelons of the Sanno family very nervous and they make plans to eliminate him. The conniving inspector Kataoko also encourages the disgruntled Sanno members to ask for help from the Hanibishi as well. Otomo also reunites with his old gun man Kimura who has a nasty knife scar running across his face. Although they had a violent altercation in Outrage, Otomo forgives him. With the battle lines drawn between the Sanno and Hanibashi families and with Otomo in the middle of all the chaos, it all boils down to an explosive confrontation!

This was another movie that I had hoped to have watched in the cinema when I visited Japan during November/December 2012 but as this movie was released in early October it had come to the end of its theatrical run by early December. As a sequel I did think it had a stronger storyline than the first. Kitano has confirmed that studio bosses have asked him to make a third movie so you can bet your bottom dollar that another sequel to wrap up all the loose ends will be made.  Expect an announcement from Kitano in the future.

Outrage-Beyond-Screenshot
Kitano is an expert on how to weave a well thought out yakuza movie although I did have my reservations at first with this movie. It starts out slow and it’s only until Kitano’s character Otomo appears that the storyline really gets into high gear. You can understand why Otomo wants revenge for all the misfortune that has befallen him. It’s surprising that Otomo is even alive because I thought he had perished at the end of Outrage. I liked the fact that in this movie we have a third party in the police inspector Karaoka who is playing the puppet master in the background and setting things in motion for a showdown between the two yakuza families. As for the violence aspect of the movie I would say it’s a little bit tamer than the first. There’s some stabbings and certainly more gun violence involved and a scene which may put viewers off is one in which Kimura bites one of his fingers off to appease the Hanibishi clan who really wanted Otomo to cut off one of his fingers. Another brutal scene finds a yakuza member strapped to a chair at a baseball bat cage facility with the balls being fired point blank at his face. Kitano is adept at showing some stylish violence. The only problem I found with many yakuza movies such as this is there’s too many characters. It is to be expected from this kind of movie that some of them will not make it to the end credits. The pace of the movie is perfect with the storyline building up very nicely to its conclusion. I did not expect the twist in the final scene. Takeshi Kitano gives a very assured performance as Otomo backed up by a great cast who play the other yakuza members.

Overall, Outrage Beyond is a worthy sequel which carries on the storyline from the first movie. It should satisfy those that love modern yakuza movies and fans of Kitano’s previous works. Now all we can do is wait for the final part of the trilogy to arrive.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Shigeru is a deaf garbage collector who happens upon a broken and discarded surfboard whilst on his job. He repairs the surfboard and tries his hand at surfing with encouragement from his also deaf girlfriend Takako. Though ridiculed at first by the surfing clique down at the beach, he soon wins their admiration for trying his best and actually improving his surfing technique. The local surf shop owner Nakajima then realises that Shigeru is good enough to take part in a regional surfing competition but does he actually have a chance to win?

A quiet serene movie isn’t something you’d normally associate with Takeshi Kitano given he’s more famous for his violent yakuza and comedy movies. Yet here he is directing a movie which will surprise many of his fans as it is nothing like any of his other works. Credit where it’s due that Kitano can direct a simple minimalistic movie on the back of having made 2 violent yakuza thrillers. It shows how versatile he can be. This movie has a heartwarming story with no action and no dialogue whatsoever from the leading characters. A recipe for disaster some might say but not when you’ve got Kitano at the helm. This is an excellent movie which draws the viewer into the silent world that Shigeru and Takako inhabit. It captures the beauty of the sea which Kitano would revisit in a couple of later movies he would make. Shigeru is a character the viewer will root for – an underdog who doesn’t give up for lack of trying. Though extremely bad at surfing at first, he skips work so that he can practice and improve. This isn’t one of those movies which sees Shigeru triumph against all odds in a surfing competition, in fact there no glorification of his exploits. It avoids the cliches you might expect in a typical American surf movie. This is more of a profound slice of life story and you gradually grow to care about the deaf couple. The dialogue you hear in this movie is delivered by the supporting cast. The ending is rather tragic and also a bit perplexing.

The movie has a slow measured pace about it which some might call boring but Kitano does this deliberately so that the viewer can feel and relate to the story that unfolds. It’s not just about a man’s desire to become a surfer, it also deals about love and determination. Kuroudo Miki and Hiroko Oshima are perfect in their roles and you can see the love they have through their expressions using their eyes and smiles. You don’t need to hear them speak to realise the deep bond the two have for one another. This movie was also the start of Kitano’s long running relationship with composer Joe Hisaishi. The soundtrack compliments the melancholic mood and atmosphere that hangs in the air for this story very well.

A Scene At The Sea is a sad, quiet, haunting and beautiful masterpiece from Takeshi Kitano which established his skills as a storyteller and director. It’s a movie that is all too easily skipped in favour of his yakuza stories but to do that is to miss out on a extraordinary tale. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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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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Beat Takeshi is a famous actor who has a nice lifestyle travelling in his Rolls Royce cars from job to job. One day he meets a man who looks exactly like him except he has blonde hair called Kitano – an aspiring actor who works in a convenience store. His personality is the exact opposite– quite meek and unassuming. He finds difficulty in getting acting jobs because he looks too similar to Takeshi and because of his quiet personality.  A dying blood soaked gangster comes into his convenience store one night and asks for the toilet. Kitano finds a bag full of guns on the gangster and takes them. Suddenly he finds the confidence he sorely lacked before as people start thinking he’s the real Beat Takeshi when he’s waving his gun around. He even finds that those that looked down on him before have a new found respect for him. Not that it matters as Kitano uses the guns to kill the people he found annoying in his life. Then things begin to get even weirder…….

This funny and at times strange satire comedy movie has Takeshi Kitano parodying his acting career to date (well to 2005 anyway at the time this movie came out) and making fun of himself if he wasn’t an actor. He plays 2 characters and it’s hard to say which is the real Takeshi Kitano as reality begins to blur. The plot is all over the place and it’s hard at times to keep up with what’s going on. Is Kitano dreaming about being Beat Takeshi or are there two people with the same name running around at the same time? After a while you’ll find its best not to try and make sense of things and it’s better to let it go over your head and just enjoy the wild and fun ride. Perhaps it was Takeshi Kitano’s intention for the movie not to make any sense for the viewer? It could be that he is trying to tell us all that even with the serious yakuza movies he’s done, he is deep down but a clown judging by several scenes incorporating Kitano as a clown. By the climax it gets too surreal that the story goes absolutely nowhere and I did think that it got a little bit boring as well. I still don’t understand what the WWII scene at the beginning and the end of the movie is all about? I believe even Takeshi Kitano questioned himself what the hell he had made when viewing this movie. People with no previous experience of his movies will have a hard time with this one. It would be best to watch some of his classics and then come back to this movie. Whilst the references to his movies and cameos are amusing to watch, the movie did get too weird (and dare I say very David Lynch-like) and repetitive for my liking by the end.

Takeshi Kitano is always great to watch and the rest of the cast who play the supporting characters are regulars from his previous movies. By the end, the character of Kitano has blown them all away several times over with his array of weapons which did get a little bit annoying.

Takeshis’ does entertain  and there is plenty of humour involved but it’s just too random, bizarre and isn’t cohesive enough for the casual viewer. It’s a very creative, almost arty movie from Kitano. One for open-minded people and his die-hard fans only.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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