"I'll just get my gear."

Kikujiro

This latest work from the great Takeshi Kitano, new on the video this week, is not his most popular. Apparently there are alot of individuals out there who hated this movie. Because this time Takeshi is not playing a violent cop or a gangster. He’s just some dude. And the movie is about how he has to take care of an adorable little boy.

Now I know what you’re thinkin. Cop and a Half. Three Men and a Baby. The one where Chuck Norris is a cop and his partner is a dog. All this type of garbage. And it’s true, that is the type of basic storyline we’re talking about here.

But that is what is so important about this work, is that it shows you can take the tough guy and little kid formula, and do it Takeshi style, and it comes out as a great comedy. Not as crap.

KikujiroTakeshi is, like our own Mr. Clint Eastwood, one of the great Badass Laureates. He has a stoic type personality and he is a master of the deadpan expression. He plays characters who go way overboard and convinces you with his eyes that he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. And what brings him into the Laureate category is that he directs his own pictures, and that his directifying style happens to be exactly the best one to showcase his Badass persona.

In a typical tough guy and kid picture, there might be a similar scene to the one where Takeshi goes back and beats the living shit out of a trucker for not giving him and the kid a ride. MAYBE. But there would be wacky music playing or “Bad to the Bone” or some shit like that. The trucker would start screaming like a baby and wiggling around goin “Oh no!” and eventually “Mommy!” and maybe he’d piss his pants and you’d think, “He’s not gonna be hurt that bad but boy is it fun to watch this fella squirm! Ha ha!”

Not here. Takeshi does it in one uninterupted shot, no music, from across the street. Like a police video or something. And he just starts beating on the dude with a stick. The sheer brutality of it is where the laffs come in.

But the movie’s not all that violent. Takeshi’s character is basically a juvenile delinquent in an adult body. His wife convinces him to take her friend’s grand kid on a trip to see his mother. So he takes the kid to bet on bicycle races. This doesn’t work out so instead of trying to come up with a legitimate plan for traveling, he comes up with a bunch of dumb schemes. Like, what if we pop somebody’s tire, then we could help them change their tire, and they would offer us a ride.

The key to Takeshi is that he’ll do stupid shit like this, or blatantly stealing right in front of somebody, or assfucking some dude out of the blue in Boiling Point, and then you’ll look at him and he just sits there with this blank expression on his face that says, “What?”

The Takeshi approach could pump some new blood into any number of dumb comedy premises. Think of any one of these comedies that Arnold Schwarzenegger does every couple of years. Like he is pregnant or he has a short twin brother or he has to train an ostrich to defuse a bomb and etc. etc. Arnold has no fucking clue how to make that funny. Takeshi can do it in his sleep. And then wake up with a new idea for a gangster movie that came to him in a dream.

Please my young friends out there who have not yet seen the pictures of Beat Takeshi. I promise you. You will fall in love with the Takeshi style if you give it a chance. It is a very understated style, very slow and quiet. And that’s why it works so well. It’s not flashy or action packed and there’s not alot of talking. It’s all in the air. His persona never gets old and his directation is only getting better. There is no one else like Takeshi. But let’s leave this guy in Japan, all right americans. He’s doin good over there.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 27th, 2000 at 10:36 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Kikujiro”

  1. Porkchop express

    March 7th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Completely agree. Great music too. This was the film I saw that made me seek out his other works. Boiling point, Zatoichi and hanna-bi are my faves with him starring, but dolls could be his greatest, and he isn’t in it. Have you seen it? If so, could you review it please. Cheers! A couple of review requests. Howard the duck(could be funny) Willow, Roger rabbit. Thanks

  2. OK, half-baked theory time: the larger world really only has the capacity to deal with two kinds of Japanese directors, “great” directors – Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Ozu (they don’t need given names) – and “maverick” directors – Seijun Suzuki, Nagisa Oshima, Juzo Itami, Takashi Miike (who do need given names). Sure there may be genre directors we admire- Ishiro Honda, Ryuhei Kitamura (but did you see THE DOORMAN?), Kyoshi Kurosawa – but they get very little broader cultural attention. And at any one time there’s generally only one “great” director and one maverick. Kitano had it all, the abilities of a great director and the sensibilities of a maverick, and the run of films he made from VIOLENT COP to ZATOICHI is one of the great hot streaks of our time (I even like A SCENE AT THE SEA and, as mentioned elsewhere, I take a dim view of surfers). But with the rise of Takashi Miike as the maverick in the ’90s, Kitano was increasingly pushed into the role of “great” director, and being a maverick he pushed back, which gave us the OUTRAGE movies.

    All of which is by way of introduction to a comment on Hirokazu Kore-eda, the director of SHOPLIFTERS and, at least according to my theory, the “great” Japanese director of this moment. I just saw his 2011 movie I WISH, which, with its story of children on a quest, calls to mind both KIKUJIRO and, inevitably, STAND BY ME. Nothing much happens – a bicycle bell is stolen and returned, a grandfather makes a cake, children go on a train journey – but what an extraordinary film! Easily the best first watch I’ve had this year, maybe these several years. Quite brilliant.

  3. Oh and I haven’t forgotten Miyazaki, but he messes with my theory because he is just a global cultural given. In any case. Miyazaki can have his own category: Genius.

  4. I don’t know. I’d say Kore’eda Hirokazu and Kurosawa Kiyoshi get about the same degree of recognition for their current work, which is way the hell more than any other Japanese directors, anime guys excepted. And there’s an obvious reason we use Kurosawa’s given name. But I WISH is great, I’m with you on that one.

    Kore’eda had more of a maverick reputation back when he was doing weird stuff like AIR DOLL. My favourite of his movies is a fantasy — AFTER LIFE, which sees heaven as a bureaucracy of enthusiastic volunteers working on a very low budget.

  5. Thanks, Matthew. Yes, you already boosted AIR DOLL to me in the comments for SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE, and I am an idle and ignorant bum for not catching it yet. I will rectify this very shortly. Happy to concur on AFTER LIFE though.

    Do you have a view on THE TRUTH? I’ve not seen it yet and struggle with the idea of Kore-eda directing a grande star like Deneuve.

  6. Oh, right! I’d forgotten that AIR DOLL came up before. I liked THE TRUTH well enough, but it felt a bit like second-hand Desplechin. Deneuve gives her usual spiky-matriarch performance, and there’s no denying she’s good at it.

    If you like I WISH then you should check out LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, which is very similar. Let’s see, what else? You’ve probably seen NOBODY KNOWS, but if not, watch it. HANA is a very good samurai revenge drama that pointedly downplays the revenge. And his first fiction feature MABOROSI is great, with a dreamlike, icy style he doesn’t really use in his later work. I’d actually make AIR DOLL a lower priority than any of those, although Bae Doona gives one of her best performances in it.

  7. Excellent! Indeed it was the Bae Doona connection that got us talking about AIR DOLL last time, as I profess to be a fan, maiking my failure to watch it all the more dumb. Loved LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, but not seen NOBODY KNOWS or HANA. Generally, I’ve not disliked any of the Kore-eda movies I’ve seen, although AFTER THE STORM felt a bit like more of the same. I WISH has definitely gone to the top of his movies for me, displacing SHOPLIFTERS and AFTER LIFE.

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