Japan's biggest media star, TAKESHI
KITANO, is best known here as director of crime movies Violent Cop and Sonatine. With Kids Return, he might just have reached a new maturity. Words: Trevor Johnston
Britain has no one quite like Takeshi Kitano. In Japan. he started out as the wackier half of a comedy duo The Two Beats — ltence his nickname ‘Beat‘ Takeshi. These days he does eight TV shows a week (quiz/cs. panel games and popular science). writes regular magazine columns and has published a series of bestselling novels.
Now and again he finds time to act in other people‘s films ill/Il’l'l')‘ ('lti'istinus M." Laii't'enee. ./()/IIIII_\' illnenionic). but on these shores we know him best as the director-star of a trio of smart. funny. occasionally dangerous movies that have lit up the arthouse scene over the past few years. First came the hip. aptly titled Vin/en! (‘01): then a slow-burning. delicious baseball comedy in Boiling Point; and most recently. Sonutute. a movie which. as much as R(’.\‘(’l'l'()ll' Dogs or The Usual .S'iispeets. marks a definitive reinvention of the crime pic for these gamesome pie—millennial times.
Perhaps disappointingly. he‘s not on screen in his newest film. yet with Kids- Return he may just have produced his most mature work to date. It‘s a
deliberately grey. low-key study of two born-loser
high-school kids who tangle with the fight game and
the fringes of the yakuza in a penetrating portrait of
the suffocating hierarchies that dominate Japanese society.
'My minders tell me i should slow down, btit l reckon I’m like a fish. If I stop swimming, l'm rlead.’ Takeshi Kitano
just keep on swimming
Pulling no punches: Takeshi Kitano directs Kids Return
‘I don‘t believe in this stereotype that youth is a wonderful thing.’ reflects the man himself. his wiry frame ensconced in a London hotel room on a rare break from his punishing Japanese work schedule. ‘There’s a conventional wisdom that says “you‘re still young“ when some teenager messes tip. but I just don't buy it. Kids Return is the antithesis to that idea. as seen through these archetypal kinds of individuals in current Japanese society. You've got this bad-boy double act. the taxi driver who works himself to death. the yakuza world. and the comedians who become successful by doing what they like.‘
Although he denies any explicit autobiographical significance. it‘s easy to see the potent anti- authoritarian impetus iii Kit/s Return reflected in Takeshi‘s habitual jousting with his country‘s sacred cows and cultural conventions. This is the man w ho played around with Japan‘s ingrained taboo on the display of pubic hair by filling his TV sketch show 721mm Fun Club with nude rugby. ‘with a naked man for a ball. which was a very tough thing to shoot’.
Shrugging off the serious facial injuries incurred in an alcohol-fuelled scooter smash a couple of years ago (‘I hoped the brain damage would leave me with sharpened senses. so it‘s disappointing I'm still the samc‘ ). he remains fully determined to keep on keeping on with his ferocious work—rate. lle‘s itot. it seems. tempted to give everything else tip to concentrate on filittmaking.
‘l’or me. mime-directing is like squeezing oitt the sponge that‘s soaked everything up from all the other media I work in. So if I stopped everything else. my films wouldn’t have enough ideas. My minders tell me I should slow down. btit I reckon I‘m like a fish. I because that‘s my natural
state. lfl stop swimming. I‘m dead.‘
Kids Return opens at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Fri 18 Jul.
preview FILM Rough Cuts
The column that puts its Festival party hat on.
LAST YEAR IT HIT 50, but there’s no sign of the Scottish Screen Edinburgh International Film Festival slowing up With old age. Director Lizzie Francke's debut programme contains a stronger selection of feature documentaries than in recent years, mixed in with the pulsating Mirrorball section (which last year highlighted the cutting edge techniques used in the music promo world) and a retrospective on inventive and unjustly ignored B-movie king Edgar (3. Ulmer.
The Festival kicks off on Sunday 10 August with the UK premiere of Belgian crowd-pleaser Ma Vie En Rose. Given the tough time subtitled movies have in securing decent cinema releases, it’s good to see Edinburgh give such up-front support to European filmmaking. Things draw to a close two weeks later with a screening of the restored print of John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King. It’s hoped that the stars — Sean Connery and Michael Caine ~ will be there too. Other highlights include:
The Full Monty Robert Carlyle stars as an unemployed Sheffield steelworker who forms a male—stripping troupe With his mates Carlyle also stars alongslde Bliir’s Damon Albarn in Antonia Bird's crime movie Face,
Nil By Mouth Gary Oldinan’s directorial debut, aboot domestic abuse and alcoholism in South London, makes Ken Loach look tame,
The Ice Storm Ang Lee follows Sense And Sensibility With a detailed look at middle—class America, circa 1973.
Wilde Stephen Fry is perfectly cast as Victorian Wit and playwright, Oscar Wilde
Also on show are the latest works by David Lynch (Lost Highway), Mike Leigh (Career Girls), Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), Kevin Smith (Chasing
I Amy) and Fridrik Thor i'fldflkSSOll
(Devil ’5‘ island)
lT/ie Scottish Sr reen Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from Sun 70- Sun 24 Aug.
Stripped for action: Robert Carlyle in The Full Monty
ll 24 Jul 1997 THE l|3T19