Dir. Takeshi Kitano. Japan. 2007.
Takeshi Kitano's last couple of films confirm that Japan 's maverick filmmaker is having a hard time deciding which way to go next and feels the urgent need to share it with his audience. After the jaundiced look at the film industry in general, and his own past record in particular, in his previous effort, Takeshis, he returns here to gaze with equal mistrust at the future.

In a series of sketches of various lengths and unequal level, he explores all the various avenues that a famous filmmaker such as him could still experiment with and comes up empty handed in every respect.

Granted, he tells his admirers, cinema can do everything nowadays, but what for, and who cares, anyway' This type of message is unlikely to entice audiences to fill up the multiplexes, but festivals will be interestedm especially with the draw of Kitano's name. Nevertheless, this will see a restricted audience for a filmmaker who has in the past managed to bring art house fare to commercial cinemas.

Kitano starts by stating that celebrities are objects as much as they are human beings. To show exactly what he means, the first scenes are dedicated to a Kitano puppet undergoing a complete medical check-up, the star being too busy to undergo them himself.

The puppet is at Kitano's side all through the film, and by the end, the results of the check-up will indicate that his brains have given up on him. The audience is free to decide if it is Takeshi's brain that has given up, or the puppet's, or maybe both of them.

Next, Kitano embarks on a quest to determine what should be the next step in his career. Having been identified with gangster films of extreme violence, he pledges to give it up and try other options.

How about an Ozu melodrama, for instance, something in black and white about 'Retirement' (a predicament the real Takeshi obviously ponders upon)' Having discarded that, he then considers exploring tearjerking sentiment, something on the lines of a blind painter and his lovely student sacrificing herself to rescue him.

Or maybe 1950's realism could be the answer for him, but who needs films that have nothing to offer except poverty, discrimination and family violence' There is also the option of horror movies, but they are so childishly silly that no one can take them seriously. And the same goes for the samurai and the ninja genres. Could it be that Japanese animation or science fiction is the direction to take'

At this point, there is the whiff of a plot being shyly introduced, with a benevolent foundation led by a fatuous, infantile philanthropist, a gold-digging mother-daughter tandem chasing rich husbands and a mad scientist whose inventions turn against him. But the plot disintegrates before it even gets going.

Rushing as it does into an anarchic mixture of slapstick and madcap comedy, Kitano's film borders on surrealistic madness.

The cast features veteran Kitano actors like Kayoko Kishimoto, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe and others, all of whom have a great old time with their characters. Some of his sketches denote a touch of genius, others are often entertaining, but quite a few moments look like adolescent put-ons or private jokes.

Kitano's interest in painting is again evident in the shape and structure of his frames, which veer from hyper realism, through Matisse-like imagery to geometrically structured cubism.

Every once in a while there are references to his past films, and fans will delight in identifying them. But finally, once he has completed the cycle of his search, Kitano seems to be as bemused and uncertain of his own future as most of his viewers are likely to be.

One thing is certain: after Takeshis and Glory to the Filmmaker, Kitano's personal ramblings need to be harnessed into a more coherent structure if he is to regain the audiences he once attracted.

Production companies
Bandai Visual (Jap)
Tokyo FM (Jap)
Dentsu (Jap)
TV Asahi (Jap)
Office Kitano (Jap)

International sales
Celluloid Dreams (Fr)

Masayuki Mori
Takio Yoshida

Takeshi Kitano

Katshumi Yanagijima

Yoshinori Ota

Production design
Norihiro Isoda

Shir-Ichiro Ikebe

Main cast
Beat Takeshi
Tohru Emori
Kayoko Kishimoto
Anne Suzuki
Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Akira Takarada
Yumiko Fujita
Yuki Uchida
Yoshino Kimura
Keiko Matsuzaka
Ren Ohsugi
Susumu Terajima
Naomasa Musaka
Tetsu Watanabe
Rakkyo Ide
Moro Morooka
Shun Sugata
Tamotsu Ishibashi
Masahiro Chono
Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Masatoh Ibu (narrator)