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Achilles to Kame

Achilles and the Tortoise

Japan 2008
produced by
Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida for Office Kitano, Bandai Visual, TV Asahi, Tokyo FM Broadcasting
directed by Takeshi Kitano (= Beat Takeshi)
starring Takeshi Kitano (= Beat Takeshi), Kanako Higuchi, Reiko Yoshioka, Yurei Yanagi, Kumiko Aso, Aya Enjoji, Masato Ibu, Akira Nakao, Nao Omori, Ren Osugi, Eri Tokunaga, Mariko Tsutsui
written by Takeshi Kitano (= Beat Takeshi), music by Yuki Kajiura

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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From childhood onwards, Machisu (Reo Yoshioka) was fascinated by painting, and he was set to become a painter ... of course helped by his rich dad, who would finance the boys hobby and support his ego. But then, dad's companies all go bankrupt and dad sees no other way out than to kill himself - and Machisu and his mother are left with nothing - so little in fact that mum leaves him with his uncle, then kills herself as well. Machisu's uncle is poor and wabnts the boy to help in the house instead of painting - but Machisu just can't get over his true love, and eventually drives his uncle to despair - so much so that uncle sends him to an orphanage.

As a young man, Machisu (now played by Yurei Yanagi) still can't help but paint, even if this seriously gets in the way of whatever job he has. His art dealer though is less than impressed by his realistic landscapes and suggests to study art and artists - which leads Machisu to do a series of embarrassing paintings in the style of contemporary European artists with not a clue of personal inspiration. But in art school, Machisu also makes the acquaintance of several other painters, and as a group, they start doing painting performances - which culminate in one of the group dieing in a carcrash while doing an especially crazy picture, and another one killing himself as he sees no chance for himself as a painter.

But Machisu also finds love in Sachiko, a colleague at the printing plant he works at who supports his dreams of becoming a noted artist, and before you know it they are married and have a child,

As a middle-aged man, Machisu (now played by director Takeshi Kitano himself) still hasn't found fame, but still tries to sell his paintings to the same art dealer, who still gives Machisu suggestions - but the problem is that Machisu, aided by Sachiku, follows each of these suggestions to the letter ... much to the dismay of their daughter Mari, who gets more and more embarrassed by their parents shenanigans while having herself become a prostitute in order to support herself. Eventually, after her parents have painted whole housewalls to become the next Basquiat and have been found at a carcrash site sketching a dying man instead of helping him, this proves too much for Mari and she moves out ... and Sachiko is soon to follow, as only now she realizes what her husband's lifestyle has done to her own life.

Machisu is so down on his luck that he even tries to get money out of his daughter to buy paint, but he has become such a loser that he loses the money right away.

Eventually, Machisu and Sachiko meet in the morgue to identify the body of their daughter - but when Machisu even tries to turn her dead face into an artwork, this proves too much for Sachiko.

Machisu is so down on his luck that he tries to commit suicide, but while in the film he has seen numerous persons kill themselves, he just can't do so himself, and his last attempt leaves him seriously burnt and bandaged to an extent where only one eye is left uncovered ... but it is then that his wife takes him back, and maybe now he's able to find happiness after all.

 

This synopsis, I know, sounds like big and cheesy drama, but it goes to director Takeshi Kitano's (who has also provided all of the paintings himself) credit that the film has actually turned out to be a light-footed comedy, a very macabre comedy, that's for sure, with a bodycount rivaling your typical slasher movie, but a comedy nevertheless. And somehow, Kitano even finds something ironic in the many many deaths that occur in the film, without ever becoming vulgar or shallow - which makes him nothing less than a great storyteller. Add to this his underplayed yet self-ironic performance and his subtle yet poetic directorial effort and you have a great film.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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