Quit playing gangster!
The 1999 Cannes Festival gem Kikujiro is another striking – and tonally unpredictable – gem from legendary Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano.Still amidst the relatively rare number of his features that don’t focus on Yakuza gangsters shooting each other, Kikujiro wooed Festival audiences in much the same way that his superb Hana-Bi did just 2 years earlier, cementing Kitano’s directorial success with warmer, more offbeat affairs, with its Wizard of Oz-esque family road movie voyage of self-discovery winning over audiences at home and abroad.Following a little boy who sets off one day to see his mother – who works hundreds of miles away and sends home money – and the cantankerous middle-aged man who gets reluctantly enlisted to accompany him, Kikujiro is a quirky and unpredictable indie gem which tackles some surprisingly tough subject matters with subtlety and sincerity, and elects natural character development over the contrivance we’re normally used to.
Without the guns or shock violence we've become accustomed to from Kitano, the change of pace can come as quite a shock.
To that end its pacing is understandably languid, relishing every moment that this unlikely pair share, the trouble they get into; the crazy antics; the silly games; and the heartbreak, and the natural pacing which allows for such character evolution will also undoubtedly be off-putting for many.
Most Kitano fans should, however, be able to see the utter love at work in this gem from the director. It’s telling that it’s named after his own father; Kitano frames every shot with striking visual acuity, and elicits arguably the most rousing, heart-warming, heart-string-tugging score collaborator-composter Joe Hisaishi has ever done for him, whilst telling possibly one of his most personal tales of self-discovery, growing up, friends, family and identity.
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