Friday, April 17, 2009

Glory to the Filmmaker!

Today, we return to Takeshi Kitano, and visit a movie I had lying on my hard drive because I can't find a DVD release in this country.

For a comedian, Takeshi Kitano doesn't direct very many comedies. This is only the second overt comedy from him I've seen, the other being Takeshis'. He also did a movie called Getting Any? that I've never seen that is also a comedy. Takeshis' was brilliant, in its way, even if the story seemed impenetrable on first viewing. It was visually inventive, often amusing, and a joy to watch no matter how out there it managed to be. It's easily one of my favorite movies, though not something anyone else could possibly enjoy unless they knew his other movies and had a high tolerance for free associative weirdness. I fit into both categories, so it's the film for me.

Glory to the Filmmaker is a bit less weird. It functions almost at a sketch comedy, with scenes mostly derived around the gag rather than how they relate to any sort of plot. It's about Kitano and his fiberglass doppelganger, as he tries to figure out how to make a movie that doesn't involve gangsters in any way. As a result, we get to watch a number of parodies of Japanese films, and learn why Kitano is bad at making them. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, like all sketch comedy. Eventually, it turns into something else entirely, but it maintains the whole sketch comedy atmosphere.

It also doesn't work as well as perhaps it might. Part of the problem is how it's enthusiastically half-assed. Wires are always visible, there's some obvious green screen, and the sets are clearly cheap. Some of this was clearly done for effect, and some stuff does work. The dummy wranglers that can be seen whenever the dummy needs to be moved on its own never fail to be amusing. However, Kitano films usually have a sense of flair and style. This doesn't have nearly as much, and that's disappointing.

Still it's clearly a Kitano film. He's still completely obsessed with suicide (there must be 50 ways to kill your fiberglass copy), he still uses the anti-reaction shot to great effect, and the shots are often quite clever and interesting. It's just a bit sillier than usual. When you reach a late scene when a gigantic red penis getting played like a guitar (it makes less sense in context), you have a sudden desire to forgive all of the movie's faults because you know that this is clearly the work of a mad genius, and for all it's flaws, it's at least very unique.

Between Takeshis' and this, I get a feeling that Kitano is reflecting on his life's work. Some people would write an autobiography, he's decided to make films that reflect on what's important in life and what his legacy is. As he is a suicidal clown, I wonder if he isn't giving himself enough credit, by constantly mocking the work that made him famous. But I will continue to indulge him, because he continues to make movies like nobody else.

Don't forget to win me a car, okay guys?

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