Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kids Return

"If you want to be a professional boxer, you need to learn to control your own life."

I think I'm going to start these things with a line from the film that neatly sums up the entire picture, what do you think? For example, Kids Return's overall theme can probably be summed up neatly right there, though professional boxer can be subbed out for any other profession. The people who succeed control their own life, the people who don't allow others to control them.

It's an interesting theme, considering the history of the production. See, somewhere between the last entry and this one, Takeshi Kitano had a major motorcycle accident. Actually, according to the writer/director/actor/editor/genius himself, it was more a suicide attempt. While he survived and went on to make some of my favorite movies, at the time there was a lot of doubt about whether or not he would ever work again. However, he decided that instead of never working again, he would pour all of his energies into making a new movie, which we see here. Not surprisingly, he's not in the movie itself, but he has clearly evolved as a person and a filmmaker, and it was probably his best movie up until that point.

So what's it all about then? There are two friends, Shinji (Masanobu Ando) and Masaru (Ken Kaneko). They are the school bullies and troublemakers, making strange anatomically correct stickmen dolls and beating up kids for their lunch money. One day, Masaru starts boxing, and cajoles Shinji into joining him. I suppose explaining the dynamics of their relationship is relevant. Masaru is very much the dominant personality, and Shinji is remarkably prone to suggestion. Due to their general misbehavior, teachers give up on the two students, and their paths diverge as Shinji proves adept at boxing, and Masaru wanders off to the Yakuza. It catalogs their rise and fall, which really isn't a spoiler since the film is cyclical and starts at the end, after everything has gone down.

Between the two, along with a series of other subplots, pressure from outside sources ultimately proves to be the downfall, especially when it comes to Shinji. Even if they know what they're doing is wrong, a charismatic person will get the best of their better judgment and lead to their ultimate failure. It's heartbreaking to watch as people who should have plenty of opportunity screwing up their lives because they are listening to an obviously bad influence.

It's a strange picture to watch at times, since there's a feeling that Kitano is trying to explain to himself why he crashed the bike. There's a scene very late in the picture showing the aftermath of an accident, and knowing the history of the production, one wonders how much of his own story Kitano put in. While one should separate the art from the artist, even subconsciously a lot of your own story can seep in, and considering this film's dramatic birth, one wonders just how much Kitano was influenced by himself.

Yet, even then, it ends on a hopeful note, as things start over again, perhaps with people learning from their mistakes and no longer letting themselves be dominated by a stronger personality. It certainly started over again for Kitano himself, as he went on to make some of the best films of his career, and also Brother.

Also, I would do unspeakable things for a big shiny Kitano Blu Ray set. Just saying.

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