The Bayley Film Club: Takeshi Kitano

Week 10
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Film 1: Violent Cop
Film 2: Dolls

Violent Cop

Author: Agsy E Drapinska

Anticipation: 2
Enjoyment: 5
Retrospect: 3

Score: 10

Violent Cop’ or as translated literally ‘That man, being violent’ is a directorial debut of Takeshi Kitano who also plays the main role in it. It was released in 1989 and shows a rather interesting picture of Japan of the 80’. 

The film is a police drama although it was originally supposed to be a comedy, the decision to change the narrative was taken by Kitano himself. ‘Violent Cop’ still has quite a bit of humor distributed throughout it, mainly through sarcastic comments and jokes of Azuma (Takeshi Kitano), whose ability to smile can be highly questioned. More than that, the creation of characters is amusing as well as the script.

The story can be summarised in a single sentence – we are following the investigation of Azuma considering drug distribution in the city and the mafia business. What I found way more interesting though was the way everything was portrayed. In the ‘Violent Cop’, we have great camera work, beautiful perspectives, and a mix of long shots slowing up the action with brief, quick shots that are informative, and of extreme importance to the plotline. The way the film is made brings to mind a true experience of policeman work which is more filled with slow, consistent, and pragmatic events against occasional rapid real-action portions that pass immediately for the people involved. Exactly not like Hollywood has been picturing it, with a life of a cop being an ongoing stream of exciting and adrenaline-pumping situations, ‘Violent Cop’ gives us a more real and interesting experience. Bravo for that!

Dolls

Author: Agsy E Drapinska

Anticipation: 2
Enjoyment: 1
Retrospect: 2

Score: 5

Dolls’ is an unusual position in Takeshi Kitano’s filmography. Mainly because it is an artistic film with three storylines packed in frames and symbolism of traditional Japanese puppet theatre – Bunraku. 

In ‘Dolls‘ we will find typical for Takeshi long shots, thought-through perspectives, a play of colors, and stunning landscapes. But we won’t find it easy to grasp what is this film all about.

So, what is ‘Dolls’ about? True love ruined by wrong decisions? Soulmates or some mystical connections between people? Maybe about sacrifice? Or karma? Escaping from fears, or life or responsibilities? I really have no idea, it might be about all those things or none of them. It is probable that without knowledge about Bunraku we are doomed to be left in the dark. I am not a fan of having everything handed on a silver platter – I like being challenged by the director and actors who leave subtle hints that make the picture not so obvious – these are signs of great filmmaking. However, in ‘Dolls’ the breadcrumbs left for interpretation were simply too tiny for me to make something out of them.

I have really struggled while watching ‘Dolls’, trying to understand the symbolism and connecting the dots. As a result, I found myself making up stories without enough support from the facts and ending up even more confused. Maybe that was my mistake – trying to understand everything instead of embracing the picture as it was, the pass of the time and feelings emerging as a reaction to the presented scenes. Takeshi caught me off guard here and we stand among cherry blossoms – myself lost, and ‘Dolls’ misunderstood.

Violent Cop

Author: NA Tonge

Anticipation: 3
Enjoyment: 4
Retrospect: 4

Score: 11

Takeshi Kitano plays detective Azuma in his directorial debut ‘Violent Cop’ (1989). Azuma uses violent and unethical methods to kill those involved in the death of his colleague and best friend, Iwaki. Whilst tolerated by his superiors, his exasperation of young people in modern-day Japan leads him to constantly overstep the line. 

Azuma beats a brattish teenager in the opening scene. Upon his return to the station, he wastes no time laying into a mouthy youth, who had been bought in for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. He even finds justification to finish his mentally ill sister, who develops a drug habit.

In line with his impatient perspective of young people, the detective has little time for his new eager-to-please, deputy. Azuma ridicules his assistant for choosing a flashy bar for their first after-work drink. Takeshi’s dead-pan look and dry whit allow his jibes to go undetected, which contributes a layer of humor to the film. 

The film’s long-shot scenes and unusual editing contributes towards creating a non-nonsense atmosphere reflective of detective Azuma. 

Dolls

Author: NA Tonge

Anticipation: 1
Enjoyment: 1
Retrospect: 1

Score: 3

‘Dolls’ (2002) is broken down into three separate stories. Its structure is unchronological. They sometimes cross-over physically, but do not interact with one another. These stories include:

  • A young man who runs away with his ex-girlfriend after she attempts suicide, when he reneges on their engagement, to instead marry his wealth boss’ daughter.
  • An ex-yakuza longing for his sweetheart lover.
  • An obsessive fan of a young female pop star, who blinds himself in an effort to stop his infatuation. 

The 2002 film is very symbolic and I believe that the stories reflect Bunraku Theatre, however, I have no experience or knowledge of this art form and I struggled to piece together the meaning behind the film. I managed to cobble together a weak theme around love and devotion. 

Whilst visually impressive, the plot and meaning was lost on me. I became incredibly bored and irritable very early on; a feeling, which continued throughout. 

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