Sunday, October 09, 2005

To the Beat of a Different Takeshi

Takeshis, at the Vancouver International Film Festival today, flashed me back to Japan, and many other places. The opening scene with Japanese solider Beat Takeshi staring into the face of a conquering American soldier reminded me of the only flick I've seen Beat in, Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence He was ubiquitous on TV (much of Takeshis is made up of scenes from TV shows) decades ago. I was told he'd become quite a filmaker since those days, but this is his first I've seen.
Apparently many of the others are gangster dramas with lots of bullets, a riff he repeats ad nauseum in Takeshis. There are actually funny gangster scenes, such as the actual yakuza being too real for the mean chef role they're auditioning for. Indeed there is funniness in abundance. Also occasionally interesting things to say about death, which appears to be more of a state of laundry.
The whole film leered from wondrously tight little scenes, perfectly composed and played out, into others so boring your mind drifts to other uses for the money you wasted on a ticket for this thing. Takeshi seems lost in dreamland. One wonders if he's ever heard of editing. He evokes our sympathy for his poor double, and plays upon the variations to the extent the empathy vanishes away, like wakefullness endlessly interrupted. So many possibilities, personalities and occasionally ideas bombard you , you're drenched rather than quenched. You remain thirsty for coherency. There has to be a story in there somewhere. Characters in search of an author. Images in search of an artist. You keep rooting for Takeshi. Surely he'll solve the mystery of how to end his flick or at least wake up.
I hadn't thought of it when we lived in Japan, but looking back on it now, I can understand why my daughter's nickname, "Bit"- pronounced "Beato" in Japanese English, was so readily grasped in the Japanese environment she lived the first decade of her life. Well, at least I got something for the price of the ticket, along with a certain nostalgia for the cheap aparment the poor Beat character lived in from the days when I lived in such places. Nostalgia for times of poverty only works when you're no longer poor.

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