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Takeshi Kitano is at the wheel in Takeshis'.
Year: 2005  
Director: Takeshi Kitano  
Producer: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida  
Writer: Takeshi Kitano  
  Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kotomi Kyono, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima
  The Skinny: Ambitious, amusing, and absolutely insane, Takeshi Kitano's attempt to deconstruct his celebrity persona is more or less one giant, head-scratching in-joke. Whether you feel like you're in on the joke or not will likely determine your personal level of enjoyment. The film starts off promising enough, but the final product is a bit too confusing and self-indulgent for its own good. Still, the sheer lunacy on display in Kitano's filmic "dream" has a charm of its own that's impossible to ignore.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     If you thought Takeshi Kitano's 2003 riff on Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi character was a little weird, you ain't seen 'nuthin yet. Takeshis', his 2005 follow-up, is one strange trip. In addition to writing and directing chores, Kitano follows in the footsteps of such noted thespians as Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme by taking on dual roles. In Takeshis', the auteur plays a fictionalized version of himself, the world-famous celebrity "Beat Takeshi" and also a blond convenience store clerk-turned-struggling actor named "Takeshi Kitano." But just when you think this is going to be yet another movie about mistaken identity or perhaps the umpteenth retelling of The Prince and the Pauper, Kitano pulls a fast one on the audience, delivering a film that is anything but conventional.
     Despite the doubling involved, this "Tale of Two Takeshis" features a plot that starts out simple enough. By sheer chance, the two identical men meet each other at a TV station. Prodded by his pal (Susumu Terajima), the "Average Joe" Takeshi asks Beat for an autograph. Beat's slick girlfriend (Kotomi Kyono) comments on the resemblance, which later leads the actor to reflect on what his doppelganger's life might actually be like. Meanwhile, the ordinary Takeshi returns to his humdrum life at the convenience store, finding time during his off-hours to audition for small parts, only to be met with rejection at each and every turn. Although quirkiness abounds in the opening reels, things start to get a whole lot weirder as the film progresses.
     It seems that Takeshi has a neighbor (Terajima once more) who loves to mock him behind his back to his trashy girlfriend (Kyono again as well), a woman who becomes idealized in Takeshi's mind. If the additional dual roles weren't enough, there's also the appearance of an angry woman (Kayoko Kishimoto), who stalks and harasses both the ordinary Takeshi and the celebrity Beat at a level that defies reality. And then there's the cab driver (Ren Osugi) who offers Takeshi a job, who looks an awful lot like Beat's manager (yep, you guessed it: Osugi again). As a cabbie, Takeshi finds himself taking on numerous passengers, including two sumo wrestlers and a young boy dressed up as a geisha (who previously appeared in Beat's storyline), as he tries to maneuver the taxi amidst a gaggle of accident victims strewn all over the road.
     Sure, that last bit can be explained away as a dream, but what about the appearance of a Japanese version of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, who later reappears in the form of three different men simultaneously, all of whom maintain additional roles in the narrative! And then there's the film's frame story, which shows Kitano as a wounded Japanese soldier staring down the barrel of a gun. Where does that go? Is it a film within a film? A reference to Kitano's first movie, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence? Who the heck knows? As you might suspect, any further plot summary of Takeshis' would prove wholly impractical, if for no other reason than the rest of the film is completely and utterly bananas.
     To Kitano's credit, that's part of the point - in interviews, he's admitted that the film is supposed to make audiences feel confused and uncomfortable. Steeped in references to Kitano's life, Takeshis' is essentially a send-up of the man himself, an in-joke whose punchline depends entirely on how "in" the audience is with the real life Kitano's filmography and personal history.
     In addition to the film's efforts toward self-parody, the plot, or what passes for one, can be boiled down to an exploration of dreams - in this case, how one man's dream can not only beget other dreams, but how these dream worlds could cross over and interact. So does that make it "all a dream"? In a manner of speaking, yes. The sheer body count in the film is so ludicrous that is pretty much telegraphs to the viewer that nothing of what you see really matters, but even so, the dreamlike explanation of the film doesn't end up feeling like a cop-out. What it is, however, is excessive. This over the top grandstanding culminates in a climactic scene in which Takeshi (assuming the gangster-like screen persona of the real Beat) stands in front of his Porsche while an armada of policemen and samurai suddenly appear before him on the beach. With machinegun in hand, Takeshi blasts away, killing off numerous attackers, while he himself remains relatively unscathed. It's all a joke, but considering that its an oft-repeated one, even within the movie itself, it's not quite as funny as it should be.
     Still, Takeshis' is ambitious in the sense that it tries to imagine a life for a Takeshi Kitano who never achieved the level of superstardom that befell the real-life man. Despite its glaring flaws, it's definitely a fascinating way to cap off this stage of his career, for the film very much feels like an ending of some kind. Sometimes quirky, sometimes tedious, and always surreal, Takeshi Kitano's cinematic attempt to satirize his celebrity persona is perhaps a bit too puzzling and self-indulgent a film to truly satisfy its lofty ambitions. But all things considered, the sheer audacity of its narrative as well as its welcome comic touch make Takeshis' a compelling, if impenetrable cinematic ride. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Bandai Visual
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Japanese Subtitles
Various Extras
  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen