About me and Kitano Takeshi

Like many, my first encounter with Kitano Takeshi was by watching Oshima Nagisa?s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, where he, credited as Takeshi, gave a deeply moving portrait as Sergeant Hara. But being completely unknown to a western audience, and to a somewhat na?ve young man being less interesting than David Bowie, Kitano slipped into oblivion. Almost ten years should pass before I saw Kitano again, this time by watching Sonatine; a most refreshing film, but still being completely unknown to the west, Kitano once again slipped into oblivion.

It wasn't until years later, when, while exploring contemporary Asian cinema, I by chance bought Brother on DVD. This should later turn out as the defining moment for me in relation to Kitano. While Brother on the surface was a quiet ordinary gangster drama, the score by J? Hisaishi allowed the desolation to transcend, demonstrating a sensibility and intelligent depth, larger than any initial reaction the violent story would suggest. That touched me deeply and needless to say, I became consumed by Brother and began researching Kitano.

Researching Kitano soon proved hard. Much was written, little was said. Most articles barely touched the surface and in some cases the writer imposed his point of view onto the work of Kitano. Fact is, that many of the articles written demonstrated lack of insight / knowledge, assumed a lot and never went deeper than quoting others.

Kitano is not entirely without guilt, in that so many bad articles about him and his work has been written, himself, but that does not excuse the superficiality with which reviews and articles were written. Far to many writers tried to outsmart him by asking "clever" questions, to which he simply would nod and given them the answers they wanted, something which he still does today, and far to many writers simply fill out the blanks by making up stuff. What Kitano wanted was simple recognition, not others telling him what his films is about.

Where one can understand, and to a point accept, a certain indifference from journalists, I was surprised to see, that Kitano didn't receive any critical acclaim amongst academia. More the other way around, Kitano often received indifferent attacks in order for writers to look smarter than they were, as in a review of Donald Richie's book "A Hundred Years of Japanese Film", which noted upon Richie's disliking of Kitano as "a refreshing lack of reverence." It is no news that Donald Richie has nothing but scorn for Kitano, because he regards him as "a peddler of violence and the ethos of cool"; And where I personally believe that Richie never has given Kitano a decent look and is too old to bother, there is no excuse for making indifferent blind swings by using others negative comments to fake knowledge. Even today, critics seem far more interesting in praising first time directors than giving Kitano even a worthy look.

Only a handful of writers acknowledged Kitano for what he was up front and didn't attempt to outsmart him. They allowed Kitano to be himself and wrote with heart first, then mind, giving him the recognition he sought and deserved. I would here like to thank especially Tony Rayns and Simon Field for making Kitano's inner thoughts available to the general public. Kitano says, "Tony found me first" and we are forever in his debt for not only making his films available, but also for recognising Kitano for the genius he is.

My aim, both as a writer and fan, is to broaden the attention about Kitano Takeshi. Even to this date, even while being recognized as one of the greatest living directors, even after wining a wide range of important awards, few know of him and fewer have heard of him. Having researched him for so long, even met him and interviewed him, I find myself in a position, where I can present him, and writings about him, in a way, so the road to appreciation and understanding will be less bumpy than the one I travelled.


Henrik Sylow (July 2004)

About Kitano Takeshi .Com

Kitano Takeshi .Com is not a fan-site, but an online resource, dedicated to collect and share information about Kitano Takeshi, aiming at providing uniquely interesting material to broaden the knowledge about and awareness of Kitano Takeshi and to allow his work to be easier accessible. This is accomplished by, through our extensive network of contacts, obtaining permission from professionals to use and publish their material here.

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