Plot: What’s it about?
Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano) and Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) make for a very unusual pair, but as they make their trek together, they seem more and more like old friends. Masao is a nine year old boy who wishes to venture into Tokyo, where he hopes to meet his estranged mother, whom he has never met. Masao feels very alone in the world and needs companionship, which Kikujiro is able to offer him as they travel toward their destination. Kikujiro is a middle-aged man, who works as a thief and has a less than sociable persona. He isn’t very pleased about being along for this ride, but he plans to make the best of things nonetheless. Soon however, fate turns their trek down a path that forces them to rely on each other, which might prove to be easier than either of them thinks. After Kikujiro gambles away their travel money, the two have to live by simple means and the kindness of those they meet in their path. What will become of these two as they traverse the countryside, forced to work within the kindness of strangers and each other?
I’d heard some good things about this film and since I am a fan of Takeshi Kitano, I figured I would give this disc a spin and see how it turned out. I admit, I know Takeshi Kitano for his more tense, action driven films and such, I was taken off guard by the nature of Kikujiro. But I know his skills can work outside those elements, so I wasn’t ready to give up hope at that time. I wanted to like this movie, but in the end, it was a little to predictable for my tastes. I am not usually a fan of “heartstring pullers” anyway, so this one fell short in all respects for me. I thought the direction and acting were decent enough, but not at the level they should have been for this type of movie. I suppose some bright spots do surface in this film, but too few appear to make this a worthwhile effort in my opinion. I think a rental will satisfy most folks, but even if you’re a fan, this movie only disc doesn’t provide much incentive for a purchase.
“Beat” Takeshi Kitano wears many hats and titles for Kikujiro and in the end, I think he has a few too many plates to handle. He serves as director, writer, actor, and editor on this film, which I doubt few would argue is a lot of burden to shoulder alone. His acting is usually average here, much lower than his better works and for the most part, he seems to be forcing his dialogue and mannerisms. The writing seems likes more of the same, some decent spots here and there, but not enough to warrant much praise. His work as editor and director is much better, but stills falls under the wheels of this film and that’s a shame. I know Takeshi can deliver superb films and as such, it is a real let down when he helms a less than stellar one such as Kikujiro. If you want to see more of his films, I recommend Sonatine, Violent Cop, Boiling Point, The Five, and Fireworks. The cast also includes Kazuko Yoshiyuki (Empire of Passion), Yusuke Sekiguchi, and Kayoko Kishimoto (Fireworks, Tora-San’s Promise).
Video: How does it look?
Kikujiro is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image looks a little soft at times, but no other problems surface with this visual presentation. The colors look bright and bold, with natural flesh tones and no evidence of smears or discoloration. Aside from some small flaws, the contrast is even and without trouble spots. The black levels are well balanced and detail is high on the whole, with only a few minor instances keeping the score down. The print used looks clean at all times and minimal compression errors emerge, this is a solid overall presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was pleased to find the film’s original Japanese language track here, presented in an effective stereo mix. I don’t think anyone will be amazed by this track, but it covers all the bases and that’s enough for me in this case. The dialogue seems sharp & clear and since that is the main audio focus, that ensures a solid overall experience. What sounds effects and music come into play also sound good, but this is a dialogue driven film so they never overpower the vocals. This disc also includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains a talent file on Takeshi Kitano, but no other film specific supplements were included.