Takeshi Kitano, aka Beat Takeshi, is a genius. At least that’s what his self publicity suggests and who can argue with him? Over the years he became has become increasingly familiar outside of his native Japan, after a notable role in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) and when his filmmaking as a director attracted an appreciative following, initially (perhaps) with his fourth film Sonatine (1993). After a serious motorcycle accident his output became more internationally renowned but his success abroad wasn’t often reflected with success at the box office back home, at least until Zatōichi (2003), which revived the popular character – a blind masseur and swordsman – on screen. But Takeshi actually started out as half of a manzai (comedy duo) act and is still a major personality on so many levels (he writes, introduces mainstream television, acts, directs, mocks and offends) that a decent length of book is required to look at the man, the myth, the mocker and the mobster. Which is where The Cinema of Takeshi Kitano: Flowering Blood comes in to resolve any questions about high art or vile humour (where necessary) within his cinematic output.
For a career that takes in so many elements, including novels, poetry and painting there is limit to what can be covered in a book that is less than the thickness of a small house so, while aspects of Takeshi’s personality and history are covered to place elements in a social perspective, The Cinema of Takeshi Kitano: Flowering Blood focuses, as the title suggests, primarily at the work of Kitano the filmmaker. The broader elements of his work in the cinema, such as his acting roles in films such as Gonin (1995), Battle Royale (2000) or the truly horrific characterisation of Blood and Bones (2004) are not avoided but have less emphasis. Indeed, as the title of Takeshis’ (2005) suggests, Sean Redmond emphasises that there are multiple Takeshis to take into consideration. This, then, emphasises Takeshi the auteur whilst acknowledging Beat Takeshi the personality and, in this context, Flowering Blood provides a detailed analysis of the themes within his oeuvre (with the exception of his debut feature Violent Cop (1989) Kitano wrote all the screenplays and often is involved in the editing process) and the striking techniques he uses to construct his stories are also carefully examined. Redmond approaches these critical analysis sections from the perspective of an outsider interpreting the world of his subject, like an academic text that has a compelling narrative of author personality in its realisation. For all the interpretation of Takeshi as the yakuza or violent film personality, in the section ‘This is the Sea’ Flowering Blood provides a welcome discourse on the nature of the beach and the sea that can be seen in aspects of many of Kitano’s works, most notably in A Scene at the Sea (1991).
Flowering Blood provides a concise but detailed examination of the themes, techniques, visual style, narrative structures and character development within the films of Takeshi Kitano that places his distinctive body of work in context, whilst at the same time celebrating one of world cinema’s most distinctive talents. Glory to the Filmmaker! (2007) then.