(aka Kikujiro no Natsu/The Summer of Kikujiro)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Takeshi (‘beat’) Kitano, Yusuke Sekiguchi
A quiet young boy, Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) who lives with his grandmother, is left alone by his school chum as he disappears on his family’s summer holiday. During his time alone, Masao accidentally finds a photograph and address of his mother, and decides to set off on a long journey, by himself, to visit the mother he has never seen.
Luckily a female friend of the family stops him before he escapes the confines of the city. She tells her trouble making, mercurial, slacker, toy gangster husband to accompany Masao on his journey. She gives him a pocketful of money and sends them on their way.
The troublemaker who Masao calls “Mister” (‘beat’ Takeshi) decides to blow all the money for betting at the bike races. They then have to try and hitch rides (which is not easy with “Mister’s” quarrelsome attitude), steal cars, and fake catastrophes to eventually get to Masao’s mothers town. During which Masao and “Mister” slowly begin to form a touching and involved friendship.
Along the way they meet some friendly and some not so friendly people, including two motorcyclists and a roaming writer. After a couple of disappointments, a few of their fellow travellers join them in a makeshift beach camp, and under the direction of “Mister” entertain and amuse the boy with games, until their inevitable journey home.
Yet another beautiful, moving, humanist, masterpiece from Takeshi Kitano. The beautiful music in this film, from the start sets you up ready for a wonderful film, the music makes you anticipate this, and this is exactly what we get.
The beauty, mood, moving music, and the surrogate father theme in this film, bring to mind Giuseppe Tornatore’s outstanding masterpiece, Cinema Paradiso (1989). Kikujiro reaches out to be held in the same stratosphere as Cinema Paradiso, and deserves to be so.
The scenes where travelers gather on the beach and try to entertain Masao are beautiful, touching, funny, and really have to be seen to be believed, and for this reason I have not even tried to describe them here. They are very beautiful scenes, and they will have even more effect when they are unexpected. As usual they are in the quirky style of humour of Takeshi Kitano, a sense of humour which in itself, once you have been exposed to, is expected every time you see on of his films, and even the expectation of such occurrences is amusing,
Since Takeshi Kitano’s near fatal motorcycle accident in 1995 his films changed somewhat (as you would expect from someone who recently faced, and cheated death). And though the films previous to his accident were always interesting, quirky and in a different style to a lot of films around at the time. They have made way for new humanist oeuvres, but still retain most of the old Kitano humour, and style of film making. The hard hitting underworld films of Violent Cop (1989), Boiling Point (1990) and Sonatine (1993), made way for the beauty of Kids Return (1996), Hana-Bi (1997) and Kikujiro. Each one wonderful, rich in humour and showing deep bonds of friendship and humanity. The comedy that is here in Kikujiro is seen to a lesser degree in his earlier films. Sonatine does have a similar structure, containing long scenes of characters being entertained on a beach, with Kitano’s style of comedy shining through.
There are several moving, and beautifully shot fantasy sequences in the film, though they are contrasted by a disturbing dream, which Masao has after his encounter with an inept sexual abuser.
The wonderful music is by Joe Hisaishi. Who also wrote the music for Hana-Bi.
Review By Giovanni Pistachio,
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