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Glory to the Filmmaker

Famously rejected at Cannes (though Venice named a new prize after it and bestowed it upon Kitano), "Glory" is unlikely to drum up much enthusiasm except among the director's diehard fans and aficionados of Asian anarchy.

With:
With: Beat Takeshi, Tohru Emori, Kayoko Kishimoto, Anne Suzuki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki. (Japanese dialogue)

Takeshi Kitano’s latest auto-reflexive wallow, “Glory to the Filmmaker!” — the second installment (after “Takeshis'”) in his self-proclaimed process of deconstruction — kicks off in high comic gear but then descends precipitously into solipsistic chaos. Plot shows Kitano as a struggling helmer who renounces violent gangster films and tries to reinvent himself through a series of parodied genres: romantic tear-jerker, ninja costumer, J-horror and sci-fi. Famously rejected at Cannes (though Venice named a new prize after it and bestowed it upon Kitano), “Glory” is unlikely to drum up much enthusiasm except among the director’s diehard fans and aficionados of Asian anarchy.

Taking the dual Kitano roles of “Takeshis'” one step further, the filmmaker’s alter ego here is a look-alike dummy, a life-size papier-mache doll even more expressionless than Kitano himself.

In pic’s hilarious opening segment, the Kitano replica solemnly undergoes a complete battery of medical tests. Doctors pore over the results as the dummy is slowly moved through an MRI machine and finally is told that Kitano should come in person the next time.Indeed, the dummy acts as stand-in for Kitano whenever boredom, danger or blows are in the offing, which unfortunately occurs too often for the clever running gag’s own good.

As Kitano tries the various genres, he sticks within painstakingly re-created conventions for some while pulling the conceptual rug out from under others. A narrator, who is ostensibly part of Kitano’s production team, provides voiceover critiques of the assorted genre forays, although his patience with his “stupid” boss’ artistic crises is wearing thin.

Kitano’s black-and-white ersatz Ozu outing, fittingly entitled “Retirement,” faithfully observes the master’s ’50s dress, drab decor and minimalist action, only to be aborted by the narrator’s disgust with the endless tea- and sake-drinking just as the tale is finally getting dramatic.

Here, as elsewhere, pic’s internal rhythm falls somewhere between quick gag and extended pastiche, neither stylistically savvy nor lamely limp enough to pay off after the initial delighted recognition.

Romantic tearjerkers with titles like “Doors of Recollection” are next on the list. A ninja costumer affords some initial wire, f/x and slow-mo gags, plus a marvelous Noh reference as black-gloved hands visibly manipulate Kitano’s stand-in doll in a nicely understated potpourri of virtuoso martial-arts moves.

Mercifully short J-horror send-up features bumbling outtakes that might have played better within the actual horror sequences, rather than as a satirical afterthought.

Fully half of the film, however, concerns what the narrator advertises as a CGI-filled sci-fi adventure. But pic morphs, early on, into a long, disjointed saga of a mother (Kayoko Kishimoto) and daughter (Anne Suzuki) bent on using various scams to marry into wealth.

Gags, some obvious, some deliberately senseless and still others ostensibly referring to Kitano’s extensive TV personae, rain down on the hapless film and even more hapless (and clueless) Western viewer.

Hailed as Kitano’s “8½,” pic weighs in closer to 1¼, though early scenes of Kitano lugging around his inanimate doppelganger by the sea and other well-timed comedy bits hark back to helmer’s real strengths.

Pro tech credits are sabotaged by pic’s stylistic indecision.

Glory to the Filmmaker

Japan

Production: An Office Kitano/Bandai Visual/Tokyo FM/DENTSU/TV Asahi production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida. Directed, written by Takeshi Kitano.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Katsumi Yanagijima; editor, Kitano, Yoshinori Ota; music, Shin-Ichiro Ikebe; production designer, Norihiro Isoda; costume designer, Fumio Iwasaki; sound (Dolby Digital), Senji Horiuchi. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Aug. 29, 2007. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: With: Beat Takeshi, Tohru Emori, Kayoko Kishimoto, Anne Suzuki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki. (Japanese dialogue)

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