PERSONA

Takeshi — 500%

Takeshi Kitano is cool. Cool and shockingly stylish. It is impossible to consider his works without recognizing these two facts about him.

There is a belief that Takeshi Kitano's style has a mystic charm. But how does it work, if each of his movies tells a tale about the most cruel people with furious faces within the yakuza criminal world? It makes sense to get closer to the phenomenon of Kitano.

by Lera Grebennikova


20/01/2022

Earlier we've focused on one of Kitano's movies which was presented at Genre's Classics — Yakuza, a CoolConnections event screening the Violent Cop (1989).
This movie is a classic in its own right because of the core technique first introduced here and then utilized by the director in his later works.

Delicate correspondence between the film's visual part and the narrative is really the director's carte-de-visite. Life in his movies is depicted with detail and accuracy through violence, deliberation, sound, and fury. It started in Takeshi's debut movie, Violent Cop.
The sunkissed, languorous streets of Japan, melting and pouring up the heatwave veil, are leading Azuma (Takeshi Kitano), the policeman, straight to the scene of bloody slaughter, accompanied by the sound of bones breaking. Such contradictions are almost unexplainable, and coherent in this movie, at the same time creating the feeling of true horror, the calm before the storm and the sense that everything is normal. That's life.

Takeshi's character is suited for everything. He is able to endure the pain and the smell of blood. He is able to endure betrayal, to fight, to watch his loved ones fall down. A bulletproof man, undestroyable. Nevertheless, he can hold a grudge, and every person trying to cross him in the wrong time and place, should be aware of him. That kind of character will appear in Kitano's later works and would be his signature, the most recognisable and charismatic one: an absolutely cold badass.
In Violent Cop, it is possible to see the kind of Japan that you want to avoid: slummy, brutal, rotting; godforsaken, left in the dust. Sometimes people say that if you lack character and strength of mind then you shouldn't stick your nose where it doesn't belong. However, the duty of the police is to invade the forbidden, dirty parts of both the city and the human soul, that sometimes lead to a point of no return in an officer's inner self. "I intentionally shoot violence to make the audience feel real pain. I have never and I will never shoot violence as if it's some kind of action video game," said Takeshi Kitano.
What yakuza do is, of course, a real outrage. But it is a very stylish outrage with its own deep and rich culture, with its own character.

Takeshi Kitano spilled the beans on yakuza deals. This incredible realism on the screen is achieved not through the romantic, but the actual portrayal of yakuza families –cold-blooded people, looking more like a platoon of soldiers at war than like some "family" with its own secrets and immense power. They are here to do their soldiering, to do it in the Samurai way, no matter how slippery this slope may be,ready for the consequences and, as a result, death. Here is no room for jokes or emotions. Here lies another peculiarity of Kitano's works: the fanciness. Cut off fingers, tattoos, cash, negotiations, bare knuckle fights, death and sizzling life – all this represents Kitano's yakuza.
Although his movies are covered with the Hollywood patina, as the characters look cool and brutal indeed, and their problems seem like global issues, nevertheless they appear to be the original archetypes of their age, not abiding by Hollywood rules or the viewers' expectations. Such a realistic approach to the yakuza culture advocated by the director, along with his desire to depict the decade throughout which this subculture undertook certain metamorphoses yields a unique experience of involvement in everything on the screen when watching the Outrage movies.
Takeshis' (2005)
This movie tells us a story of a character's (Takeshi Kitano himself) dissociative personality disorder, a Fight Club type of story by Kitano. Takeshi Kitano as a character in his own work is something bigger than just a conventional cameo; it is the heart of the movie.

There is a Beat Takeshi, a handsome brunette and a TV gangster show star, and there is cashier Takeshi, a blonde misfit, trying to apply for TV show auditions. Both are real Takeshis. The film's laconic slogan: "500 Percent Takeshi," encapsulates the director's own reflection on such themes as who he is, how he lives, what he works for, and who surrounds him.

Each Takeshi dreams about himself and another Kitano. Dreams have the superpower to create a strange and phantom-like atmosphere in which it is easy to get confused and lost. The images mingle with each other, repeat themselves; familiar faces are constantly flashed, as every actor portrays several characters.

There is a strong feeling that the director is trying to check his personal ground for being stable and safe throughout the Takeshis'. He is trying to understand how his image has become entrenched in the culture, he is dealing with his past work, which really hurts him in some way, and he is speculating about his future. All of this happens through the prism of the extravaganza created by the director with his own vivid techniques, charismatic characters and surprising situations.
Of course, the world of Takeshi Kitano is much broader than these few films. Many of his works resonate with the fans of the Japanese director all over the world and are mostly recognized as iconic movies. Hana-bi (1997), Zatôichi (2003), Brother (2000) – all these movies are able to make the viewer breath out and say: "Yep, that's Takeshi".
Made on
Tilda