Takeshis' Takeshi Kitano

This is an awesomely self-reflexive meditation on fame and its costs by Japan’s media titan, Takeshi Kitano. He plays the two roles of Beat Takeshi, a typically harried celebrity who bristles at the stalkers and the phoney sentiment, and his double Kitano, a bleached blonde convenience store clerk with seriously low self-esteem. The movie first segues into the story of Kitano, who auditions again and again for small parts he never gets, and then takes a turn for the seriously bizarre when his fantasy life starts bleeding into his reality. Dancing caterpillars, yakuza shootouts, hot sex and bad jokes — nothing is too strange to make the film’s packed final 40 minutes. There’s clearly a big soul search going on in the heart of Kitano (the director, that is), and he’s straining to create something on the order of a wacky 8 1/2, but though his film is complex and fanciful it’s more of a head-scratcher than a mind-blower. Once Kitano the character starts kicking ass and taking names, the film becomes a little hard to take — not that it becomes too much, but that it’s too wan and cutesy in its imagery to support the force of its barrage. Fans of the director/star will most likely find this essential viewing, as it offers a glimpse into the divided heart of their hero unprecedented in the history of films à clef, but it sadly lacks the powerful invention needed to pull off the stunt. Still, I defy you to come up with a more fearless and distinctive movie this year. If nothing else, it’ll have you scrambling to explain the last transition, the next exposition and just what the significance of the fat guys in dresses might be. ( (Seville)