Takeshi Kitano

Article Bio Works www
crossroads:
violence
genre(subgenre):
Film (comedy, feature film, Hongkong Film)
Written and spoken word (film script)
region:
Asia, Eastern
country/territory:
Japan
created on:
July 2, 2003
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Takeshi Kitano
Kitano Takeshi. Promo 2000

Article

Yakuza – a lot of blood

The director, actor, author, visual artist, TV star and stand-up comic Takeshi Kitano is one of the most eminent media-personalities in Japan. Though his many yakuza films have brought him the reputation of being super cool, he has also made sensitive studies. In 1997 his ´Hana Bi´ won the Golden Lion in Venice and the European film-prize.
When Takeshi Kitano, as Detective Nishi in ´Hana-Bi´, beats an opponent up, not only does the latter fall to the ground but his blood spurts to the walls. Pervasive violence is shown drastically in both this and most of his other films, whose scripts he writes, whose action he directs, whose leading role he mostly performs and whose takes he mostly cuts. ´Hana-Bi´, a breathtaking tale of violence, love and death, won several prizes, including in 1997 the Golden Lion in Venice and the European film prize for the best non-European film.

But Takeshi Kitano would not have gained the reputation of a cult director if his films had shown only orgies of violence. His hallmark since ´Violent Cops´ (1989), the first film in which he was the director, the main actor, the cutter and the author, has rather been a blend of melancholy, poetry and short, vigorous and shockingly realistic brawls.

Even ´Hana-BI´ is not an exclusively violent film. Violence occurs there briefly and intensely in the heat of the moment but otherwise the film is mainly still, like its main figure the former policeman Yoshitaka/Nishi. Besides the explicit violence there are poetic moments in Nishi´s tender and wordless behaviour towards his wife Miyuki. Nishi does not speak, ´but when he goes off his rocker, he is really to be feared, like that time when he emptied a whole magazine in shooting a man already dead,´ says one of his former colleagues. Nishi says little since his daughter died, his young wife became incurably ill and he incurred a high debt with a credit-shark – one of the yakuza. Moreover he feels guilty about the death of his colleague Tanaka of the Tokyo police as well as about the laming of Horibe, a further colleague.

Viewers realise that this is all too much for the man. Nishi beats up and maims the creditor, repaints a stolen taxi as a police-car then, in the appropriate uniform, robs a bank. His aim is not to retire silently to live in luxury but to shrug off the burden of debt. He pays off his debt with the yakuza creditor in one go and sends Tanaka´s widow money and Horibe the colours and paper he has longed for, to paint with. He uses the rest of the money to ease the last days of his wife´s life, by going on holiday with her to Fuji-San – to the snow and sea. She has probably longed for such an outing for years but has never had a chance to go on account of her work. This leads to persecution by the yakuza and former colleagues and finally – in the tradition of kabuki drama – to the death of the two lovers.

´I want to make folk think by using images which move them. There´s no other way, since the Japanese nowadays are thick-skinned and slow to think. Everything flows off them like water off a duck´s back, and nothing really affects them. In vain one looks for something genuine,´ said Takeshi Kitano in 1989. ´My film "Violent Cop" is like a declaration of war, and indeed parents and teachers in the society for protection of youth have called urgently to have it avoided.´ Kitano likes to choose, as his main figures, folk with difficulties in adapting to the system or stuck in a conflict of loyalties. This mostly leads them to try to retain their personal integrity by dying with dignity.

´Violent Cop´ (1989), which happened to give the actor Kitano his first chance of directing a film, once the script and the crew had already been chosen, is a conventional thriller about the discovery of a case of corruption in the police corps. Takeshi here plays the hard, disillusioned cop, who is violent but above all weary, like the plot itself, which skirts most action to the final showdown.

In ´Sonatine´ (1993), for which Kitano also wrote the script, the plot nearly vanishes behind the toying with form and time. The theme is gang warfare, and the protagonist is not a policeman but a yakuza, but even so he is a weary killer. The film shows continual motion as stagnation as well as the childish behaviour of the gangsters in trying to kill time during a forced holiday in Okinawa. ´Sonatine´ lets its heroes play at life, set traps, play Russian roulette and do yumo-wrestling in a circle scratched in the sand by the sea.

Though in ´Violent Cop´, ´Boiling Point´, ´Sonatine´, and ´Tana-Bi´ the plots are violent and about violence, yet in ´A Scene at the Sea´, ´Getting Any?´, ´Kids Return´ and ´Kikujiro´s Summer´ Takeshi Kitano shows a surprising sensitivity towards his characters.

´A Scene at the Sea´ is the moving tale of a deaf boy and his passion for surfing and shows other facets of Kitano´s talent. The boy Higeru, who works as a dustman, happens to find an old surfing-board which causes him to dream of becoming a champion surfer. Patiently he mends it and learns how to use it, then though at first mocked by other surfers, he finally manages to win respect. His girlfriend, who is likewise deaf and dumb, supports him in his difficult periods of training and competition, and the lack of words typical of their relationship magnifies the depth of their love. This poetic masterpiece is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of apparent losers and shows that images are often more expressive than words.

In ´Getting Any?´ Kitano tried for the first time to put the absurdity and satirical delirium of his comic TV figures into a feature-film. The result is a hysterically funny version of the self-destruction and obsessions of Japanese society.

In ´Kids Return´ he transports his own youth into present-day Tokyo in a notable portrait of two young men wavering between boxing and the criminal underworld. As an actor, Kitano had become known in Japan the 1970s under the name of Beat Takeshi as one half of the Manzai comedy duo ´The two Beats´, so in ´Kids Return´ he creates a memorial to his start as a comic turn in clubs.

And in ´Kikujiro´s Summer´ Beat Takeshi is once more united with the second Beat Kiyoshi, who plays a man pestered by Kikujiro at a remote bus-stop. As a stand-up comedian, Kitano has had his greatest success with Manzai, with punch-lines and repartees appealing directly to viewers.

´Kikujiro´s Summer´ is the adventurous trip of two folk who could not be more different. Masao is eight years old and in search of his mother, and Kikujiro is a rough and ready good-for-nothing always in search of quick money. At the end of the trip Masao can report on his unbelievable experiences, and Kikujiro has learnt that child´s play can help reveal what has gone wrong with one´s own life.

In ´Kikujiro´s Summer´ Kitano makes his taciturn toughness funny. The film is a melancholic and poetic homage to slapstick films and, while showing an insatiable appetite for childish fun, it enriches the genre with Takeshi Kitano´s surreal-absurd humour. The touching game of the two main protagonists is also a gentle plea for friendship and humanness.

In his newest film ´Brother´ (2000) Kitano turns once more to the yakuza genre. The film is about a lonely gangster whose yakuza family has fared badly in a feud. Yamamoto (Takeshi) travels in search of his younger brother to Los Angeles, where he finds him as a drug-dealer. Together with the black dealer-boss, the two Japanese begin to bring the L.A. underworld under their control and notify the mafia of their plan.
Author: Ulrich Joßner

Bio

Takeshi Kitano was born on the 18th of January, 1947 in Tokyo and spent his childhood in the borough Asakusa, full of tradition. As he first learned at the age of 18, his father was a yakuza – a member of the Japanese mafia, so he early had first hand experience of this way of life. His mother came from a military family with a sense of order and sent her son to study engineering at the University of Tokyo.

In the late 60s he found himself in the milieu of leftwing protest without himself being especially political and had to give up studying engineering owing to ´unseemly behaviour´. He then stayed afloat by doing odd jobs, being for instance a lift-boy and a cashier at a strip-joint. One evening he was able to jump onstage as an entertainer, which proved to be the start of his career as a stand-up comedian. He learned dancing, tap-dancing and body-language in a local cabaret then appeared often in the mid 70s as one of the comic duo ´The Two Beats´. Hence he became known as ´Beat Takeshi´, famous for his quick repartee and wordplay, and kept this nickname for use as a stage-name after the duo broke up.

In 1980 Beat Takeshi began to evolve into a TV personality who, whatever the content of the particular program, was able to comment with covert or overt satire on actual events. During his most successful period he worked every week on nine shows ranging from scientific to late-night programs full of sex and comedy. The comedian and disrespectful provocateur Beat Takeshi rose in the early 80s to the rank of a national star.

After several comic cameos in Japanese feature films at the start of the 80s, he won international attention for his role as the brutal but sentimental sergeant Hara in Nagisa Oshimas ´Furyo – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence´. Other films in which he acted but did not direct are Takashi Ishi´s ´Five of Them´, Robert Longos ´Vernetzt – Johnny Mnemonic´ and Toshihiro Tenma´s ´Many Happy Returns´. In the mid 80s he played the main role in the TV feature ´Okubo Kiyoshi No Hanzai´, which is like a sketch for the cops and yakuzas who were soon to be shown to perfection in his own films.

During the production of ´Violent Cop´ (1989) the director was indisposed, so Kitano, who had been hired as an actor, took over, beginning by thorough revising the script and ending by leaving his personal mark on the film. As a director and leading actor, Kitano has been very productive. From 1989 to 2000 he directed nine films, of which the greatest international success was ´Hana-Bi´, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice biennale in 1997.

After a quarter of a century of productive and varied activity, Kitano is still one of the most eminent media personalities in Japan and appears on eight television programs a week. He has written many short novels, stories, essays and poetry and is also an excellent caricaturist, draughtsman and painter. His began painting after narrowly surviving a serious motorcycle accident in 1995 and included some of his pictures in ´Hana-Bi´ and ´Kikujiro´s Summer´.

Works

Outrage / Autoreiji

Film / TV,
2010

Achilles to Kame

Film / TV,
2008

Boy

Published Written,
2007
Vertical

Kantoku! Banzai! / Glory to the Filmmaker

Film / TV,
2007

Naissance d´un gourou

Published Written,
2005
Deno: France

Hikari / Light

Published Written,
2005
Rockin´ On

Takeshis’

Film / TV,
2005

Igyo / Odd-looking

Published Written,
2004
Rockin On

Waruguchi no Gijutsu / Technique of Bad Mouth

Published Written,
2003
Shinchosha

Takeshi ga Takeshi wo korosu riyuu / The reason why Takeshi kills Takeshi

Published Written,
2003
Rockin On

Sonobakaga tomaranai ? Takeshi no chukyu kenjagaku kouza / The that fool does not stop? ...

Published Written,
2003
Shinchosha

Omaeno fukoniwa wakega aru / There is a reason for your unhappiness

Published Written,
2003
Shinchosha

Kyoto Kaidan (Magnate Conference / Magnate Meeting)

Published Written,
2003
Shinchosha

Jinginaki Eiga-ron / Film Essay without Honor and Humanity

Published Written,
2003
Liberal arts

Jikou / Prescription

Published Written,
2003
Rockin On

Ichiro x Kitano Takeshi Catchball

Published Written,
2003
Pia

Jikou / Prescription

Published Written,
2003
Rockin On

Beat Takeshi no mokushiroku / Beat Takeshi´s Apocalypse

Published Written,
2003
Tokuma Shoten Publishing

Zatoichi

Film / TV,
2003

Watashi bakariga naze moteru ? Takeshi no shokyu kenjagaku kouza / Why I?m singularly popular ? Takes

Published Written,
2002
Shinchosha

Kodoku / Alone

Published Written,
2002
Rockin On

Nihon no Sahou

Established,
2002
Shinpusha

Dolls

Film / TV,
2002

Yosei / My remaining years

Published Written,
2001
Rockin On

Kikujiro to Saki / Kikujiro and Saki

Published Written,
2001
Shinchosha

Choujou Taidan (Top Conference / Top Dialogue)

Published Written,
2001
Shinchosha

Comanechi 2: Brother Dai Tokushu / Comaneci 2: Special Report on Brother

Published Written,
2000
Shinchosha

Brother

Film / TV,
2000
(script, directing, acting)

Kekkyoku wakarimasen deshita ? Za chiteki manzai / It was not understood after all ? The Intellectual

Published Written,
1999
Shueisha Publishing

Kikujiro

Film / TV,
1999

Takeshi no 20 Seiki Nihonshi / Takeshi´s 20 Century Japanese History

Published Written,
1998
Shinchosha

Takeshi no shinutameno ikikata / Takeshi´s way of living to die)

Published Written,
1997
Shueisha Publishing

Hana-Bi

Film / TV,
1997
(script, cutting, acting, directing)

Jinginaki Eiga-ron / Film Essay without Honor and Humanity

Published Written,
1996
Liberal arts

Kids Return

Exhibition / Installation,
1996
(script, cutting, directing)

Five of Them / Gonin

Film / TV,
1995
(actor, directed by Takashi Ishii)

Johnny Mnemonic

Film / TV,
1995
(actor, directed by Robert Longo)

Getting Any? / Minna yatteruka

Film / TV,
1995
(script, cutting, acting, directing)

Many Happy Returns / Kyoso Tanjo

Film / TV,
1993
(actor / directed by Toshihiro Renma)

Sonatine

Film / TV,
1993
(script, cutting, acting, directing)

Asakusa Kiddo (Asakusa Kid)

Published Written,
1992
Shinchosha

A Scene at the Sea / Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi

Film / TV,
1991
(script, directing, cutting)

Boiling Point / 3-4x10 gatsu

Film / TV,
1990
(acting, directing)

Kantoku Takeshi - Kitano Gumi Zen Kiroku / Director Takeshi ? Every Record of Kitano Team

Published Written,
1989
Oota Shuppan

Violent Cop / Sono otoko kyoubou ni tsuksi

Film / TV,
1989
(script, acting, directing)

Do we really need Comics? / Komikku nanka iranai

Film / TV,
1986
(actor / directed by Tahita Yoichino)

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Film / TV,
1983
(actor / directed by Nagisa Oshima)

Www

Official website