My first introduction to Takeshi Kitano was through Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
where he plays the Japanese guard that everyone could like. At the time I didn’t know his name and have to admit that I was watching the film for a certain Mr David Bowie. Still his acting left a definite impression and when I crossed paths with him again, so to speak, I recognised him immediately.
My second introduction to him led me to one of the best film-makers in modern cinema — screw you if you don’t believe me. But seriously Hana Bi
was an amazing film — managing to marry what might be called disparate elements into a beautiful cohesive whole. You have art, humour, violence and some of the most wonderful cinematography.
It is a shame that most Western audiences will know Takeshi from his role in the awful Johnny Mnemonic
. He thankfully got a second bite at the cherry in an English speaking role with the film Brother
: an East meets West gangster film that manages to sidestep the cliches which can plague that genre.
He was the head teacher in Battle Royale
and gives a powerful performance there. He is a popular comedian in his own country, a director, an actor, and an artist: a true polymath. Every film that he is in he owns — he is something of an Eastern equivalent to Clint Eastwood’s quiet drifter that brings justic. He sometimes doesn’t say much in a film but when he does, as with when he moves and acts — the economy of his movements and speech seem to be that bit more explosive than if he had bulled around inside the roles. Zatoichi
, his take on the blind samurai is a masterclass in this: it offered a fresh alternative to the wire-work heavy films House Of Flying Daggers,
There are similarities in a lot of the characters he plays but there is always some interesting quirky angle that he approaches the story telling from — some impressionistic touch that he throws into the mix. He is at once an emotional and an aesthetically savvy director; whilst as an actor he calls to mind the aforementioned Eastwood and sometimes Lee Marvin.
Go hunt down his films: watch the quiet centre explode with colour and violence.
Now playing: The Mission – To love and to kill with the very same hand