Glory to the Filmmaker (Kantoku Banzai!)



Venice International Film Festival

VENICE, Italy -- Takeshi Kitano is called God in Japan, and this God, like an Indian version, has two avatars.

Beat Takeshi, the name he assumed when he entered show business as a comic in 1972, runs riotous slapstick serials on Japanese television. The actor's other name is, well, Takeshi Kitano, the serious filmmaker, whose movies often are horribly violent. His latest work, "Glory to the Filmmaker" (Kantoku Banzai), screened out of competition at the Venice Film Festival and is a cocktail of violence and comedy.

Although billed as his first real comedy since the 1995 "Getting Any?" the movie has a few extremely brutal scenes, probably to attract Japanese youth growing up on aggressive video games and near-sadistic comics. Despite this mix, the film did just about average business in Japan. Kitano does spell success in art house circles, and Venice honored him this year by naming an award after his latest movie. Kitano received the inaugural Glory to the Filmmaker prize, his first accolade on the Lido since 1997, when his "Fireworks" won the Golden Lion for the best competition entry.

"Glory" reflects the disillusionment of a director. Indeed, Kitano recently complained publicly that the medium, despite its 100-plus years of existence, had not evolved radically enough. It is this frustrating feeling that he gives vent to in his film.

So Beat Takeshi desperately seeks a new genre that will bring audiences back to the theaters. He tries out a variety of plots that pan from gangsterism to romance to costume drama to period piece to martial arts to horror to slow-paced Ozu-style narrative. But each of these displeases him; he finds little novelty. Then he hits upon the story of a mother-daughter duo who try to crook a rich man. Beat is his secretary, and he thwarts the women's attempts, saving mankind in the process!

Although the movie does make several forays into the comic, often getting viewers into splits, it tends to drag at intervals, and Takeshi's normal wooden style of acting and deadpan expression do not lift the sagging frames. The women -- Kayoko Kishimoto (mother) and Anne Suzuki (daughter) -- are livelier, effectively delivering funny one-liners. Toru Emori as Mr. Big appears rather exaggerated, coming off as an overstuffed doll, an apt partner for Kitano's own look-alike puppet that shields him from punches and abuses.

Office Kitano
Screenwriter-director-editor: Takeshi Kitano
Producers: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida
Director of photography: Katsumi Yanagijima
Production designer: Norihiro Isoda
Music: Shin-Ichiro Ikebe
Costume designer: Fumio Iwasaki
Beat Takeshi: Takeshi Kitano
Mr Big: Toru Emori
Mother: Kayoko Kishimoto
Daughter: Anne Suzuki
Running time -- 104 minutes
No MPAA rating