Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:59 PM By Simon

I haven't seen many Beat Takeshi (Kitano, but the nickname is so much cooler) films. Just this and 3/4 of Zatoichi. But here's what I can gather from what I have seen: perhaps, in a comment on Japanese society's reservedness, I guess, maybe, whenever somebody gets killed, everyone stares stoically, maybe a bit bored, but that's a stretch. When, in the middle of a Frisbee game, one of his men get shot in the head by a straw-hat donning assassin, the main character, crime boss Murakawa and his lady friend (who he passively saved from getting raped earlier) stare blankly at the body. Maybe this could be a comment on typical Hollywood fare, where in this situation, the man would jump up, grab the gun from his fallen underling's hand, which had been shown to be empty not seconds before, and shoot wildly at the hit man, while the girl screams uselessly. But, no. Even though it is shown throughout that Murakawa cares for his men, the look on his face says nothing more than "Oh, darn, who ruined my Frisbee party?"

Okay, enough of the vaguely-spoilerific preparation. This movie answers the age-old question, "What do gangsters do on their days off?" After being set up by his boss, having his headquarters bombed and being ambushed in a bar, Murakawa and his gang/clan/yakuzas/whatever find a remote beach house to wait for the shit to blow over. There, they juxtapose the opening act's brutal violence with childish games. Basically, they fuck around with some cardboard sumo wrestler, dig holes in the sand for eachother to fall into, shoot Frisbees in midair, shit like that. But there's a sinisterness underneath all that, pushed on by the mischievous, foreboding score, lots of bells and drums that give the whole thing a constant feeling that it's building up to something tragic. And then, of course, there's the scene that's famous to someone probably, the one where Murakawa and two henchmen play a game of Russian roulette, hesitant on the part of the two, but Murakawa has nothing but a huge, silly grin on his face as he rock-paper-scissors the outcome. When he loses, he brings the last chamber to his head, pulls the trigger, revealing the cartridge was empty. Later, he dreams that it wasn't empty, and the grin remains plastered to his face as blood drips/squirts out of his head. There are lots of scenes like this.

The version I watched had crappy subtitles, and I'll have to watch it again to get any good grasp on the performances. Overall, this is one weird-ass movie, okay? It's surreal and brutal and you don't know what is at face and what is supposed to be a metaphor. I get the feeling this will be prevailent in all Takeshi movies. Go see it, though, because it's also kind of great, in the subdued, nature-is-my-soundtrack way you'd normally find in European cinema. A gangster epic without any real characters, with odd and unexplained behaviour, constantely shrouded in mystery.

This isn't a review, though. If it were, I'd tell you the cast and the release and whatever. This is some glorified rambling on my ignorance of Japanese culture. Maybe. I dunno.


SugaryCynic said...

i've never seen this one but zatoichi was just...weird. I don't know if it was bad or if I just didn't get it

April 24, 2010 at 2:29 PM
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