×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kikujiro

A complete departure from the lyrical violence of his gangster films, Japanese actor-director Takeshi Kitano's "Kikujiro" is an unremittingly sentimental road movie that represents a substantial disappointment after his international breakthrough film, "Hana-Bi." Story of a cherubic tyke and a gruff middle-aged tough guy with a soft side who journey together in search of the boy's mother, the film displays many of the inventive visual touches that distinguished Kitano's previous work, but its treacly mix of emotional manipulation and klutzy comedy will make it hard to digest for most audiences.

With:
Kikujiro ..... Beat Takeshi Masao ..... Yusuke Sekiguchi

A complete departure from the lyrical violence of his gangster films, Japanese actor-director Takeshi Kitano’s “Kikujiro” is an unremittingly sentimental road movie that represents a substantial disappointment after his international breakthrough film, “Hana-Bi.” Story of a cherubic tyke and a gruff middle-aged tough guy with a soft side who journey together in search of the boy’s mother, the film displays many of the inventive visual touches that distinguished Kitano’s previous work, but its treacly mix of emotional manipulation and klutzy comedy will make it hard to digest for most audiences.

While Kitano has become a highly regarded cult director in recent years through international festival and arthouse exposure, his films have never been given the same consideration in Japan, where he is known primarily as a television personality and standup comedian. Tempering his trademark cool, silent demeanor here with bouts of wacky comic mugging, the director appears to be playing primarily to his legions of TV fans, indicating he may be angling with his eighth feature for wider domestic acceptance.

Set during summer, film centers on lonely 9-year-old Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) , who lives with his grandmother. Told that his father died in a car accident and that the mother he has never known is forced to stay in a distant town due to her job, Masao sets off with a photo and address to find her. He hooks up with an unlikely traveling companion in Kikujiro (Kitano, using his nom de thesp Beat Takeshi), a smart-mouthed goon instructed by his no-nonsense wife (Kayoko Kishimoto) to accompany the boy.

The journey that follows is punctuated by eccentric encounters and by chapter titles and images from Masao’s summer-holiday project book. When they do reach Masao’s mother, a crushing disappointment keeps him from making contact. Discovering reserves of tenderness he perhaps wasn’t aware existed, Kikujiro steps in to relieve the boy’s sorrow, concocting elaborate fantasies and infantile games with the aid of two passing motorcyclists (Great Gidayu, Rakkyo Ide) and a traveling poet (Nezumi Imamura). The increasingly silly antics of this overextended section wear decidedly thin.

Kitano has traded in sentiment before, most notably in “A Scene at the Sea,” about two deaf-mute teens with a passion for surfing, and in passages of “Kids Return” and “Hana-Bi.” But while those films achieved a delicate, unforced poignancy, “Kikujiro” is heavy-handed in almost every aspect, most of all in its excessive use of regular composer Joe Hisaishi’s syrupy score. Failing to establish the seductive, fluid rhythms that normally propel Kitano’s work, this journey often appears to be going nowhere, with the clumsy comic episodes and surreal, somewhat incongruous dream sequences constantly halting the momentum.

Kitano plays Kikujiro as an impish, overgrown delinquent, uncovering a more sensitive side as his bond with Masao grows. But the focal character of the boy is problematic, and self-conscious young actor Sekiguchi fails to convey much personality or range beyond a generically adorable physical presence. As always with the director’s films, this one is visually impressive, with lenser Katsumi Yanagishima deftly conjuring the hazy colors and lazy stillness of summer.

Kikujiro

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- JAPANESE)

Production: A Sony Pictures Classics release of a Bandai Visual/Tokyo FM/Nippon Herald/Office Kitano production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Masuyuki Mori, Takio Yoshida. Directed, written by Takeshi Kitano.

Crew: Camera (color), Katsumi Yanagishima; editors, Kitano, Yoshinori Ota; music, Joe Hisaishi; art director, Norihiro Isoda; costume designer, Fumio Iwasaki; sound (Dolby), Senji Horiuchi; line producer, Shinji Komiya; associate producers, Naoyuki Sakagami, Kazuhiro Furukawa, Kazumi Kawashiro; assistant director, Hiroshi Shimizu; casting, Takefumi Yoshikawa. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 20, 1999. Running time: 122 MIN.

With: Kikujiro ..... Beat Takeshi Masao ..... Yusuke SekiguchiWith: Kayoko Kishimoto, Yuko Daike, Kazuko Yoshiyuiki, Beat Kiyoshi, Great Gidayu, Rakkyo Ide, Nezumi Imamura, Fumie Hosokawa, Akaji Maro, Daigaku Sekine.

More Film

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. More Reviews Sundance [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content