Takeshis’ (2005)

Takeshi Kitano’s self-titled effort was apparently the cause of much bewilderment upon its premiere at the 2005 Venice Film Festival, and I wonder if that was partly due to him being a right polymath at home in Japan—filmmaker, actor, TV talk show and game show host, stand-up comic, author of novels, poetry and film criticism—whereas in the west we only seem to know him as a director rather than an all-round celebrity. And, to be sure, as the first film he made after having a megahit with Zatoichi, it must’ve come as an eccentric decision at best. Taken by itself, I actually didn’t think it was anywhere near as complicated as others would make out, cos the story isn’t that hard to boil down… Kitano plays two versions of himself, the celebrity “Beat” Takeshi and the humble convenience store worker Kitano, the latter being the former’s identical double except for his hair colour; when the two of them meet at a TV station, Kitano’s life gradually descends into a sort of madness as his reality becomes more and more mixed with the fantasy of being Takeshi. That’s not hard to understand or follow. Which is not to say the film isn’t bizarre, because it is, frequently and fantastically so; actors play multiple roles and the structure of the film is built as a series of dreams within dreams (culminating by making us question just whose fantasy has this been all along) and a cunning use of flash-forwards. But if you’re paying attention, it’s not that difficult, surely. Obviously it wouldn’t be your first port of call if you were new to Kitano, and you probably need to be reasonably au fait with his work to get some of the jokes (I’m sure I missed several, though the riotously absurd violence—particularly the magnificent beach shootout—speaks for itself). I thought it was a lot of fun; now I want to see the two films he followed it with (and re-watch some of the older ones)…

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