×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Takeshi Kitano Tired of Gangsters and Commercial Constraints

TOKYO — The mainstream Japanese film industry came in for a surprising volume of criticism Saturday at a Tokyo event intended to celebrate the iconic comedian, actor and director Takeshi Kitano.

The occasion was an on-stage session at which Kitano was named as the first recipient of the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival’s Samurai Prize. He was greeted and quizzed by eight prize-winning student filmmakers, and then lauded by Cannes festival selector Christian Jeune and critic and Asian film expert Tony Rayns.

Looking and sounding as gruff and burdened as ever, Kitano kicked off with a cute anecdote about his early days as a struggling comedian who had to work in bars and massage parlors in order make ends meet. “I scrubbed the backs of Yakuza” gangsters, he said.

Since then, that proximity to organized crime has come in handy. Not only have gritty gangster films become Kitano’s directorial trademark, he revealed that on his first visit to the U.K. London Film Festival officials mistook him for a genuine bad guy.

Now Kitano could be getting weary. “Maybe I’m getting tired of violent movies. I’ve made a few in order to make money,” he said.

Responding a seemingly innocent question about whether foreigners can make Japanese films, Kitano launched into a critique of the academy that selects Japan’s contenders for the foreign-language film Oscar entry.

“Only films from the major studios [Shochiku, Toho and Toei],and sometimes Nikkatsu, get selected. It really annoys me that there is such a narrow source,” he said. “Who are the academy members? And why is it that commercial considerations always limit what filmmakers can say?”

He acknowledged that some restrictions can be helpful to a filmmaker. “A lack of freedom makes you use your imagination,” he said, and also said that he had recycled things he had learned as a director into his comedy.

In an interesting sideswipe, Kitano said that he did not enjoy the cartoons of Hayao Miyazaki, the Studio Ghibli founder and cultural icon honored only a day earlier by the festival and Pixar’s John Lasseter. “I really don’t,” Kitano said. “But it is important to recognize other opinions.”

Rayns echoed Kitano’s commentary about restrictiveness of mainstream Japanese cinema today. “The future of commercial cinema is in the hands of only a few companies. Opportunities for independents may become limited. But other channels will probably emerge [for new filmmaking voices], on the Internet, and through downloading.”

Asked to compare current Japanese cinema with that of Korea, Rayns drew a very unflattering portrait.

“Korea is very dynamic, it is undergoing social and political change. Its culture reflects that. Its films are rooted in change,” Rayns said. “In Japan I don’t see that. I see stasis. I still see same right wing politicians denying the existence of comfort women, the same old stuff we’ve heard for 20, 30 or 40 years. Until we see some challenge to the establishment [in Japan] I don’t think you will see the same dynamism as in Korean cinema.”

Moments later Kitano was asked by media to elaborate on his future film projects, but it turned into a prime example of the conservatism that Kitano and Rayns had criticized.

“I’m done shooting, but I’ve been told to keep quiet,” Kitano replied.

At that point the event emcee cut in to proceedings and, without explaining the reason, said that the festival bosses had ruled such questions as inadmissible.

More Film

  • Karlovy Vary Honorees

    Karlovy Vary Fetes Julianne Moore, Patricia Clarkson, Vladimir Smutny

    The Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival Honorees JULIANNE MOORE, Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema An actress, author and activist, Moore has long earned accolades on her diverse career path. The North Carolina native won a Daytime Emmy with her first major TV role on the soap opera “As the World Turns,” [...]

  • CLOSE QUARTERS – In Disney and

    Korea Box Office: ‘Toy Story 4,' ‘Aladdin’ Share Weekend

    Two Disney releases, “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” ruled the weekend box office in Korea. Opening on Thursday, “Toy Story 4” earned $8.54 million from 1.12 million admissions over its four opening days. The animated family adventure film accounted for 32% of the country’s total weekend box office. May release “Aladdin” slipped to second from [...]

  • Lendita Zeqiraj Agas House Movie

    Karlovy Vary Embraces New Voices From the East

    When Karlovy Vary Film Festival’s East of the West competition opened to submissions from the Middle East two years ago, festival artistic director Karel Och noted it was “about time to abandon the political definition of the ‘East of the West’ countries,” long determined by the geographical boundaries hemming in the former Soviet bloc. Though [...]

  • Let There Be Light Movie Marko

    Tough Competition in Spa Town Festival

    When the curtain rises June 28 on the 54th edition of the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival, there will be a conspicuous absence among the 12 titles selected for the main competition: Czech directors. It’s just the second time this decade that the host country has failed to field a single entry in competition, a [...]

  • Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp Join Edgar

    Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp Join Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” has rounded out its cast, with veteran actors Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp among the stars signing on for the latest movie from the “Baby Driver” director. Stamp can currently be seen in Netflix hit “Murder Mystery” with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Rigg’s recent roles include Olenna Tyrell [...]

  • Zhang Zhao LeEco film

    Zhang Zhao, Chief of Le Chuang (Formerly Le Vision Pictures), Resigns

    Zhang Zhao, the chairman and CEO of Le Chuang Entertainment, formerly known as Le Vision Pictures, has resigned for “personal reasons,” the firm said.    Zhang’s resignation was announced in a statement posted to the firm’s official social media account Monday, which thanked him for his service. “Le Chuang will carry on as before, using [...]

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content