Top 10 Kitano

Having just purchased and watched Dolls, I realised I had seen 10 of Takeshi Kitano’s films. It’s safe to say he is my favourite director. It means I’ve now seen 10 of his oldest 11 films, the odd one out being Brother which quite frankly I have little interest in. At some stage I will complete a fuller list and review of his films since they are all worth watching, and many of them are wonderful films.

 

I will go in reverse order so as to build to Number 1.

 

10. A Scene at the Sea – Somewhat of a disappointment, although I’ve only seen it once, I never really felt attached to it. Features wonderful music though as normal from Joe Hisaishi.

9. Boiling Point – It’s an okay film. Very offbeat. There are some really good things about it, but honestly, half of it makes no sense whatsoever. Great cinematography.

8. Zatoichi – Putting it 8th seems unfair because it’s a very enjoyable film and perhaps Kitano’s most accessible work in that it feels quite Westernized. Good film although I don’t know anything about the previous iterations of Zatoichi and I’ve heard from some fans of it that the film is a disgrace to the work that went before it. Go watch it anyway.

7. Getting Any? – The only comedy I’ve seen from Kitano, it’s a fun romp and while a quarter of it will go over your head, there is enough there to keep even the most close-minded viewer laughing for some time. And it contains one or two hilarious references to Kitano’s gangster films – look out for Susumu Terajima ripping it up as the “continually getting killed Yakuza”.

6. Kids Return – I’ve posted about this before. It’s a very good film and very enjoyable but it’s missing some magic along the way.

5. Kikujiro – A stunner which can be watched by lots of different people. Old or young you will enjoy it. Always charming and affectionate without being saccharin or overbearing. A gorgeous film to watch, go see it!

4. Violent Cop – Kitano’s first film is still one of his best. Extremely enjoyable cop movie, some great performances and very “film-noir”, it was made in 1989 but outside of one or two things, doesn’t look like it’s aged a day, something which can be said for many Kitano films.

3. Dolls – Sublime. Some audio sync problems distracted me for the first half hour, so I hope you don’t have that kind of problem! Anyway, once I got into the film I grew very fond of it, 3 good stories mixed into one effortlessly watchable meditation on love and tragedy. Stunning photography, it’s really really beautiful.

2. Sonatine – Another Kitano cop movie, but one that constantly surprises with it’s gorgeous direction, humorous banter and stellar performances from Susumu Terajima and the lovable Masanobu Katsumura.

1. Hana-Bi – Still in my eyes the best Kitano film ever. It’s just a perfect cop movie, but at the same time, not a cop movie. I can’t say much more about it than that it’s absolutely spellbinding. Go buy it, it’s £3.99 on Amazon, you owe it to yourself to buy this film. It will open you up to a whole world of amazing Japanese films.

In Review – Kids Return

I’ve now watched Kids Return twice, and I thought I’d better write something about it. I watched it the first time a few days after Christmas, having received the Takeshi Kitano box set of 6 films. I love Kitano. And I watched it a second time a few days ago after being slightly underwhelmed the first time.

Kids Return has a lot going for it. Directed by one of my favourites, no, my favourite director, it had one of the greatest trailers I’ve seen. It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t too assuming or ostentatious. It was just.. right. Here it is :

 

Maybe it doesn’t have the same feeling to you. Every time I see it I get hairs standing up on the back of my neck. The music, the naturalistic lighting, the people running to that music, the boxing, the grey appeal of Japan in the 1990s. From it you can see the nostalgia, the relationship between the two young boys, you know there’s going to be humour, tears, everything. Right?

Well, it doesn’t. And for those reasons, it is both essential Kitano viewing in the sense that it does without the sentimentality or the nostalgia, it foregoes the genre cliches and is a far more intelligent and wiser view of young people growing up in Japan. Yet simultaneously it has less of the enjoyment of some of Kitano’s other works like Sonatine or Kikujiro, both which actually have an air of sentimentality but still cramming in all of Kitano’s visual and theatrical delights.

It is beautifully shot in a very natural style which is effortlessly watchable and the characters are always compelling, there are some very good performances throughout, including that of Moro Morooka who plays Hayashi, the lazy and selfish boxer who offers Shinji an alternative way of life.

The truth is, I feel like I have been let down by what is still a very good film, in the sense that I expected it to be outstanding. The music is still fantastic, as you would expect from Joe Hisaishi, and it’s very enjoyable, but the truth is I still feel like I’m not quite getting the full enjoyment that so many other seem to. It’s not my favourite Kitano film by any means, but if you’re in any way a fan of his, or indeed 1990s cinema, it’s still a must-watch.