Tuesday, May 27, 2008

REVIEW: Takeshis' - Takeshi Kitano (2005)

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

After so many years in the entertainment field and having done movies (starring, directing, writing), TV, books, painting and just about everything else, Takeshi Kitano seems to now be deconstructing his own artistic process. His 2005 film Takeshis' (indicating something that belongs to more than one Takeshi) is the first in what is apparently a trilogy of films that will break apart Kitano's approach and ideas of film (the second was 2007's "Glory To The Filmmaker" which was screened at this year's Toronto International Film Festival). Whether this is an experimental approach to working in new ideas, therapy or simply boredom on his part, I couldn't say. It does, however, still contain the creative shots of previous films, the signature Kitano humour and bits of non sequitur entertainment.

The film kind of folds upon itself in a way similar to Spike Jonze's "Adaptation". It begins with famous actor Beat Takeshi wrapping up yet another yakuza gangster film role and introduces us to the many people around him (helpers, gambling associates, sycophants, annoyances, etc.). One of the people we meet is a struggling actor named Kitano - who just happens to look exactly like Beat Takeshi. After their meeting and an autograph, Beat goes off into makeup and as he falls asleep he wonders what life is like for his doppelganger. Within his "dream", we see this imaginary life of Kitano populated with Beat's own acquaintances in various new roles - sometimes popping up several times. To remove us even further from reality, within Beat's dream the struggling actor Kitano has his own dreams. The entire set of these sequences seems to not only bring out the real life Kitano's creative process (merging flashes of ideas he gets as he meets people in an awake state with the free form stories he has while dreaming), but allows him to riff on what are likely scenarios he's been through in his real life role as an entertainment personality. Meanwhile we also get a myriad of references to previous Kitano films as well as a terrific dance sequence with three tap dancers and a huge caterpillar.

I'm not sure if Kitano initially had the concept first and then filled it to the brim with germs of other ideas or if he simply had lots of spare thoughts floating around and came up with the device of this film into which to spill them. Kitano may be too self-involved for some with this new phase, but if an artist is going to do some navel gazing and reflection on how his creativity should express itself then this would be the way to do it - through an original, fun and entertaining ride.

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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