Sunday, September 11, 2005

Takeshis'


Jack-of-all-Trades superstar Takeshi Kitano makes an ambitious attempt to deconstruct, reconstruct and just have fun riffing on his various celebrity personas in his new film promising 500% Takeshi. Kitano rides the Spike Jones/Charlie Kaufman wave with a movie that defies narrative and whips reality and fiction into well…something more of a bauble than the epic deconstruction Kitano is (I think) attempting. But then again, maybe it is me that is the ignoramus. (More on this later…)

Kitano plays a fictionalized caricature of himself, a conceited, phoney diva/superstar who walks onto a TV set, fires a gun once or twice and then gets flowers from the cast for doing such a bang-up job. He ignores his entourage and imagines his publicist naked. He is hounded by stalkers, gift-bearers and by people who just want a piece of him, or want strings to be pulled in casting decisions. Kitano begins to wonder if life would be easier as say a convenience store clerk or a cab driver, or even as a less established actor. The film then fragments and follows the several different imagined Takeshi’s around. Sometimes they hold one of these roles, sometimes several. The Takeshis interact with one another as well as many of the actors, comedians and performance artists who have previously worked with Kitano in the past, each of these playing often multiple roles in a decisively non-linear narrative. It plays out like a good stand-up comedy routine, frequently coming back to several details or situations, which get more funny through repetition and changing context.

On this side of the ocean, Kitano is probably best known for his art-Yakuza pictures (Sonatine, Hana-Bi), as well as his recent remake of Zatoichi or worse yet, his villain role in Johnny Mnemonic and his badly dubbed visage in Spike TV’s Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (the heavily edited American version of Takeshi’s Castle), coming into a movie like this with background on “Beat” Takeshi and Takeshi Kitano (and the distinction between the two) is going to make-or-break the experience. Almost every scene is layered with at least two or three in-jokes. This is a far more complicated territory to navigate than, for example, Kevin Smith’s similar for-our-crowd-film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I’m certainly not an expert on the man, so I’ll fess up to being a bit out of my depth here. I enjoyed the film only in a muted fashion, possibly directly proportional to my knowledge of the man and his career.

Takeshi’s is all very heady and complex, even to the point of referencing other autobiographical films like for instance he is often dressed as a clown which would point to Fellini and 8½. Far too often, however, the film resorts to the joke of pulling out a lot of guns and shooting everything in sight. Sure it gets a hearty laugh or two, but grows a bit tiresome as the film goes on.

**Note: For a thorough primer on the man, which I recommend you do if you have any intentions of seeing this film, I direct you to one of the best Kitano Websites online: www.kitanotakeshi.com.

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