Takeshi Kitano

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Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano at Cannes, 2000
Born: January 18, 1947 (age 60)
Flag of Japan Adachi, Tokyo
Occupation: Television personality, actor, author, film director, film editor, film producer, screenwriter
Spouse: Mikiko Kitano (former manzai comedian)

Takeshi Kitano (北野 武 Kitano Takeshi?, born January 18, 1947) is a Japanese comedian, actor, presenter, author, poet, painter, one-time video game designer, and film director who has received critical acclaim, both in his native Japan and abroad, for his highly idiosyncratic cinematic work. With the exception of his works as a film director, he is known almost exclusively by the name Beat Takeshi (ビートたけし, Bīto Takeshi). Since April 2005, he has been a professor at the Graduate School of Visual Arts, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Kitano has his own film company, Office Kitano, which launched Tokyo Filmex in 2000.

Kitano's films are usually dramas about Yakuza gangsters or the police, referred to by critics as being highly deadpan to the point of near-stasis. He often uses long takes where nothing appears to be happening, or with edits that cut immediately to the aftermath of an event. Many of his films express a bleak or nihilistic philosophy, but they are also filled with a great deal of humor and remarkable affection for their characters. Kitano's films paradoxically seem to leave controversial impressions. While formally disguised as dark comedies or gangster movies, his films raise moral questions and provide food for thought.

While Kitano's international fame continues to rise, the Japanese public knows him primarily as a TV host and comedian. His portrayal of Zatoichi in the 2003 movie by the same name is said to be his biggest domestic commercial success.

During interviews, Kitano is careful to hide his enigmatic personality behind the mask of being a comedian and regular guy. He hosts a weekly television program called Beat Takeshi's TV Tackle (ビートたけしのTVタックル), a kind of panel discussion among entertainers and politicians regarding controversial current events. But Kitano's primary role is to provide comic relief and he rarely shares his true feelings regarding controversial social issues.

Although he interviewed Shoko Asahara, founder of the controversial Japanese religious movement Aum Shinrikyo, on at least two occasions (a fact little known outside Japan), his attitude towards religion is unknown. Kitano confirmed in a video interview that he was forbidden to access the NHK studios for five years for having exposed his body during a show when it was totally forbidden.[1]


[edit] Early life

Kitano was born in Adachi, Tokyo in 1947. After dropping out of Meiji University, where he studied engineering for four years, he found work as an elevator operator in a nightclub and learned a great deal about the business from the comedian Senzaburo Fukami. When one of the club's regular performers fell ill, Kitano took his place on stage, and a new career was born.

In the 1970s he formed a comic duo with his friend Kiyoshi Kaneko. They took on the stage names Beat Takeshi and Beat Kiyoshi; together referring to themselves as Two Beat (sometimes romanized as The Two Beats). This sort of duo stand-up comedy, known as manzai in Japan, usually features a great deal of high-speed back-and-forth banter between the two performers. In 1976 they performed on television for the first time and became an instant success, propelling their act onto the national stage. The reason for their popularity had much to do with Kitano's material, which was much more risqué than traditional manzai. The targets of his jokes were often the socially vulnerable, including the elderly, the handicapped, the poor, children, women, the ugly and the stupid. Complaints to the broadcaster led to censorship of some of Kitano's jokes and the editing of offensive dialogue. Although Two Beat was one of the most successful acts of its kind during the late '70s and '80s, Kitano decided to go solo and the duo was dissolved. Some autobiographical elements relating to his manzai career can be found in his film Kids Return (1996).

Many of Kitano's routines involved him portraying a gangster or other harsh character, and his first major film role, Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (where he starred opposite Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Bowie) featured him cast as a sadistic POW camp sergeant during World War II.

[edit] Film career

A poster for the film Takeshis'. Takeshi Kitano's new hair color was adopted a few months before the release of Zatoichi.
A poster for the film Takeshis'. Takeshi Kitano's new hair color was adopted a few months before the release of Zatoichi.

After several other roles, mostly comedic, in 1989 he was cast in the lead for Violent Cop (Sono Otoko, Kyōbō ni Tsuki) as a sociopathic detective who responds to every situation with violence. When the original director (Kinji Fukasaku) fell ill, Kitano offered to step in, and rewrote the script heavily. The result was a financial and critical success in Japan, and the beginning of Kitano's career as a filmmaker.

Kitano's second film as director and first film as screenwriter, released in 1990, was Boiling Point (3-4X Jūgatsu). Masahiko Ono plays the lead role of a young man whose baseball coach is threatened by a local yakuza. He and a friend travel to Okinawa to purchase guns so they can get revenge, but along the way they are befriended by a psychotic gangster played by Kitano, who has his own revenge to plot. With complete control of the script and direction, Kitano uses this film to cement his style: shocking violence, bizarre black humor and stoically shot 'still' scenes. In spite of this, the film was considered a failure and did not recover its production costs upon initial release.

Kitano's third film, A Scene at the Sea (Ano Natsu, Ichiban Shizukana Umi), was released in 1991. It featured no gangsters, but instead a deaf garbage collector who is determined to learn how to surf after discovering a broken surfboard while working. A young girl (also deaf) follows his progress and is quick to assist him wherever possible. Kitano's more delicate, romantic side came to the fore here, along with his trademark deadpan approach.

Foreign audiences (that would outnumber his domestic audience in the coming years) began to take notice of Kitano after the 1993 release of Sonatine. Kitano plays a Tokyo yakuza who is sent by his boss to Okinawa to help end a gang war there. He is tired of gangster life, and when he finds out the whole mission is a ruse, he welcomes what comes with open arms.

The 1995 release of Getting Any? (Minna Yatteruka!) showed Kitano returning to his comedic roots. This Airplane!-like assemblage of comedic scenes, all centering loosely around a Walter Mitty-type character trying to have sex in a car, met with little acclaim in Japan. Much of the film satirizes popular Japanese culture, such as Ultraman or Godzilla and even the Zatoichi character that Kitano himself would go on to play eight years later.

Takeshi Kitano before his accident, in the 1993 film Sonatine.
Takeshi Kitano before his accident, in the 1993 film Sonatine.

In August 1994, Kitano was involved in a motorcycle accident and suffered injuries that caused the paralysis of one side of his body, and required extensive surgery to regain the use of his facial muscles. (The severity of his injuries was apparently due to him not fastening the chin strap on his helmet.) Kitano later stated that the "accident" was actually a suicide attempt[citation needed]. Some speculated that the depression leading to the suicide attempt may explain the nihilistic atmosphere of his early films. Many in the foreign press speculated that he might never be able to work again. Kitano put any such thoughts to rest by making Kids Return in 1996, soon after his recovery. At the time it became his most successful film yet in his native Japan.

After his motorcycle "accident", Kitano took up painting. His bright, simplified style is reminiscent of Belarusian painter Marc Chagall. His paintings have been published in books, featured in gallery exhibitions, and adorn the covers of many of the soundtrack albums for his films. His paintings were featured prominently in his most critically acclaimed film, 1997's HANA-BI (released as Fireworks in North America). Although for years already Kitano's largest audience had been the foreign arthouse crowd, HANA-BI cemented his status internationally as one of Japan's foremost modern filmmakers.

Kikujiro (Kikujirō no Natsu), released in 1999, featured Kitano as a ne'er-do-well crook who winds up paired up with a young boy looking for his mother, and goes on a series of misadventures with him. Brother (2001), shot in Los Angeles, had Kitano as a deposed Tokyo yakuza setting up a drug empire in L.A. with the aid of a local gangster played by Omar Epps. Despite a large buzz around Kitano's first English language film, the film was met with tepid response in the US and abroad. Dolls (2002) had Kitano directing but not starring in a film with three different stories about undying love; it met with unfavorable critical and public reception.

Takeshi Kitano as Kitano in the 2000 film Battle Royale.
Takeshi Kitano as Kitano in the 2000 film Battle Royale.

Between the underwhelming response to Brother and Dolls, Kitano became a punching bag for the press in the United States, who wondered if he had lost his ability to make a good film. Criticism was less severe in Europe and Asia though many commentators were not as lavish with their praise as they had been with previous Kitano films. 2003's Zatoichi, in which Kitano directed and starred, silenced many of these dissenters. With a new take on the character from Shintaro Katsu's long-running film series, Zatoichi was Kitano's biggest box office success in Japan, did quite well in limited release across the world, and won countless awards at home and abroad, including the Silver Lion award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival (the same award earned by Kurosawa for his Seven Samurai).

Kitano's latest film, Takeshis' was released in Japan in November 2005 with an unusual tagline, reading "500% Kitano - Nothing to Add!" in English. Kitano also stars regularly in other films. Among his most significant roles were Nagisa Oshima's 1999 film Taboo (Gohatto), where he played Captain Hijikata Toshizo of the Shinsengumi; and Kitano in Battle Royale (2000), a controversial Japanese blockbuster set in a bleak dystopian future where a group of teenagers are randomly selected each year to kill each other on a deserted island. He also appeared in the film adaptation of William Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic, although his on-screen time was greatly reduced for the American cut of the film.

Kitano used to be a regular collaborator with composer Joe Hisaishi, who has created scores for many of his films. However, during the making of Dolls they had an argument, apparently over which tunes to include on the film's soundtrack, and have not worked together since.[2]

[edit] Family

  • Older brother: Masaru Kitano (北野大 Kitano Masaru?, May 29, 1942 -) - commentator, tarento and professor at Meiji University. He often appears in TV shows.
  • Wife: Mikiko Kitano (北野幹子 Kitano Mikiko?, 1951-) - former manzai comedian. She got married to Takeshi Kitano in 1978.
  • Son: Atsushi Kitano (Kitano Atsushi? March 31, 1981 -)
  • Daughter: Shoko Kitano (北野井子 Kitano Shōko?, October 5, 1982 -) - former singer and actress. She made her debut as a singer (produced by X Japan co-founder Yoshiki Hayashi) and also appeared as Shoko Matsuda (Matsuda was her mother's maiden name) in her father's film HANA-BI in 1997.

[edit] Other work

Kitano has written over fifty books of poetry, film criticism, and several novels, a few of which have also been adapted into movies by other directors.

Kitano was also notorious for four video games put out by Nintendo Famicom (NES) including Takeshi no Chousenjou (Takeshi's Challenge) by Taito Corporation[1].

He has also become a popular television host. Takeshi's Castle, a game show hosted in the 1980s by Kitano featuring slapstick-style physical contests, has gained cult popularity in the United States (where portions are broadcast on Spike TV as MXC, formerly Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) and in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom where it was given a voiceover by Craig Charles. More recently, he hosted Koko ga hen da yo, nihonjin (roughly meaning "People of Japan, This Doesn't Make Sense!"), a talk show where a large panel of Japanese-speaking foreigners from around the world debate current issues in Japanese society. Another of his shows is Sekai Marumie ("The World Exposed"), a weekly collection of various interesting video clips from around the world, often focusing on the weird aspects of other countries, and with a regular section on daring rescues, taken from the American program Rescue 911. On this show, he plays the child-like idiot, insulting the guests and wearing strange costumes.

The now internationally acclaimed Takeshi Kitano was awarded an honorary Bachelor of Science in engineering by Meiji University on September 7, 2004, 34 years after he dropped out to pursue his career in entertainment.

He was an early supporter of enka singer Kiyoshi Hikawa, and actually gave Hikawa his stage name.

On January 21, 2007, His former comic pupil Hideo Higashikokubaru (known as Sonomanma [means "as it as" ] Higashi) ran for governor of Miyazaki prefecture and was admirably elected.

[edit] Filmography

[edit] Director

1989 Violent Cop (その男、凶暴につき, Sono otoko, kyobo ni tsuki, lit. This man has gone mad)
1990 Boiling Point (3-4X10月, 3-4X jugatsu, lit. Third and fourth of October)
1991 A Scene at the Sea (あの夏、いちばん静かな海, Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi, lit. That summer the sea was very calm)
1993 Sonatine (ソナチネ, Sonachine)
1995 Getting Any? (みんな やってるか!, Minnâ-yatteruka!)
1996 Kids Return (キッズ・リターン, Kidzu ritān)
1997 HANA-BI (aka Fireworks in North America)
Golden Lion award winner at Venice Film Festival
1999 Kikujiro (菊次郎の夏, Kikujirō no natsu, lit. Kikujiro's summer)
2000 Brother
2002 Dolls (ドールズ, Dōruzu)
2003 Zatoichi (座頭市)
Silver Lion award winner at Venice Film Festival
2005 Takeshis'
2007 Kantoku Banzai

[edit] Actor

1969 Go, Go Second Time Virgin (ゆけゆけ二度目の処女, Yuke yuke nidome no shojo), by Koji Wakamatsu
extra performance
1980 Makoto (まことちゃん, Makotochan), by Toyota Fujioka
an anime, cameo appearance as voice actor (seiyū)
1981 Dump Migratory Bird (ダンプ渡り鳥, Danpu Wataridori) by Ikuo Sekimoto
1981 Manon (マノン), by Katsuhiro Maeda
1981 Completely... With That Air! (すっかり・・・その気で!, Sukkari... sono ki de!), by Juichi Tanaka
first starring work.
1982 Secret of Summer (夏の秘密, Natsu no Himitsu)
1983 Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (戦場のメリークリスマス, Senjou no merī kurisumasu) (aka Furyo in Europe), by Nagisa Oshima
a Japanese/American movie shot in Java.
1989 Violent Cop (その男、凶暴につき, Sono otoko, kyobo ni tsuki), by himself
1990 Boiling Point (3-4X10月, 3-4X jugatsu, lit. San tai yon ekkusu jugatsu) (aka Jugatsu in France), by himself
1993 Sonatine (ソナチネ, Sonachine) by himself
1995 Getting Any? (みんな やってるか!, Minnâ-yatteruka!), by himself
1995 Johnny Mnemonic, by Robert Longo
an American movie shot in the USA, adapted from Johnny Mnemonic, a short story by William Gibson. Credited as Takeshi.
1995 Gonin, by Takashi Ishii
1997 HANA-BI (aka Fireworks in North America), by himself
1998 Tokyo Eyes, by Jean-Pierre Limosin
a French/Japanese movie shot in Tokyo.
1999 Kikujiro (菊次郎の夏, Kikujiro no natsu), by himself
1999 Taboo (御法度, Gohatto), by Nagisa Oshima
2000 Brother (aka Aniki, Mon Frère in France), by himself
a Japanese/American movie shot in Los Angeles & Tokyo.
2000 Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイヤル, Batoru rowaiaru), by Kinji Fukasaku
2001 Battle Royale: Special Edition (バトル・ロワイヤル 特別篇, Batoru rowaiaru tokubetsu ami), by Kinji Fukasaku
2003 Zatoichi (座頭市), by himself
2003 Battle Royale II: Requiem (バトル・ロワイヤルII 鎮魂歌, Batoru rowaiaru II chinkon uta) by Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku
2004 Izo by Takashi Miike
2004 Blood and Bones (血と骨, Chi to hone), by Yoichi Sai
2005 Takeshis', by himself

[edit] Broadcast Appearance List

[edit] Major TV Programs

1980-82 THE MANZAI (Special Program)
1981-89 Oretachi Hyokin Zoku (オレたちひょうきん族)
1983 Waratte Pon! (笑ってポン!)
1983-99 Super Jockey
1985-90 Sports Taisho (ビートたけしのスポーツ大将)
1989-96,2007 Owarai Ultra Quiz (ビートたけしのお笑いウルトラクイズ,Special Program)
1985-96 Genki TV (天才・たけしの元気が出るテレビ!!)
1986-89 Takeshi's Castle (風雲たけし城)
1989- TV Tackle (ビートたけしのTVタックル)
1991-97 Heisei board of education (平成教育委員会)
1997- Daredemo Picasso (たけしの誰でもピカソ)
1997- Kiseki Taiken!Unbelievaboo (奇跡体験!アンビリバボー)
1991- midnight broadcasting series (Fuji Television)
Kitano Fun Club (北野ファンクラブ)
Kitano Fuji (北野富士)
Adachi-ku no Takeshi,Sekai no Kitano (足立区のたけし、世界の北野)
Saitoh Singu-ten (たけしの斉藤寝具店)
Kitano Talent Meikan (北野タレント名鑑)
Comăneci Daigaku Suugaku-ka (たけしのコマネチ大学数学科)

[edit] Radio

1981-90 All Night Nippon by Beat Takeshi (ビートたけしのオールナイトニッポン)
1997-2000 Beatnik Radio (街でいちばんの男 ビートニクラジオ,)

[edit] References

  1. ^ Getting Any? DVD published by Cheyenne Films EDV1040, France, 2003
  2. ^ Trivia on Dolls on IMDB.com

[edit] External links

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