At this point, Takeshis' is a film seen by very few. Although it's appeared at a few film festivals, it's yet to see an American release and few reviews are available. Kitano's work, as his been discussed in these pages before, has suffered critical blows in the last few years, both in this country and his homeland in Japan. While his last film, Zaitoichi, was his most commercially successful, Kitano's love for creative exploration was no longer being as widely embraced as it was in the late 90's. His last few films prior to Zaitoichi, the sedate Brother and the artistic triptych Dolls were commercial failures and mauled by critics, American and Japanese alike. Unsurprisingly, Kitano response to the success of Zatoichi was totally unpredicatable. Instead of returning to the screen with another tried and true commercial property (the Zatoichi series is legendary in Japan) Kitano has turned out his most incomprehensible art film ever: Takeshis'.
The subject of Takeshi's is, at its clearest moments, Takeshi Kitano himself. While this doesn't become an exercise in arrogance, sans a few extended shootouts that make little sense, the film is still clearly one that will only makes total sense to one person: it's writer, director, editor and star. Like all of Kitano's films, it's simply shot, brilliantly minimalist in setting and style; unlike his films, it makes almost no sense whatsoever, and is so raptuous about not making sense that the film is near impossible to hate. However, it is very easy to dislike--after all, the film seems totally uninterested in going anywhere or doing anything whatsoever. While a whole lot of things happen in the film, from a bizarre dance sequence set to DJ music that involves a caterpillar and a terrible breakdancer, to the copious amount of slow-motion shoot-outs, or the overly extended and tiresome satire of Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" character, there are few moments of the film that aren't at least full of something--the problem is that the something is just that. It's a movie about a guy dreaming about things, sometimes doing them, and never attempting to explain them. In any other hands, it would be a tiresome exercise in creative masturbation, something like a Simpsons episode devoted to a Simpsons writers brainstorming session. In Kitano's hands, the film is still as tiresome, and it's still masturbatory, but at least you don't find yourself hating the filmmaker by the end, a trick that many American filmmakers should try to learn, from Spielberg to Lynch.