Glory To The Filmmaker! Review
You’ve got to hand it to Takeshi Kitano, few directors are willing to challenge the preconceptions of their fans quite like him. Just look at how he dealt with his most successful and mainstream film to date: Zatoichi, by following it up with Takeshis’ a Freudian identity crisis nightmare that had fans scratching their heads in bewilderment. Now he’s back with Glory To The Filmmaker!, another self referential film that promises to rip open those preconceptions; both home and abroad, one more time and hopefully provide some extremely wacky entertainment along the way.
Part mockumentary retrospective, part madcap science-fiction comedy, Glory To The Filmmaker’s premise is hung when a narrator announces that “Gangster films are what Takeshi Kitano does best. Of all the things, this stupid director in his interviews, here and abroad, proclaimed never to make another gangster film”. From these words the narrator begins a run down of the various films Kitano has tried to create since ditching the gangster drama. Nostalgic dramas, tragic love stories, period action films, all turned out to be a failure just as bad as the last, all the way up to his latest project: The sci-fi CGI laden comedy-drama: The Promised Day.
The Promised Day kicks off when a group of astronomers discover a giant asteroid on a one-week collision course with the Earth. Upon further inspection they notice that on this asteroid appear two giant faces. They are the faces of our lead characters, who we join back on Earth. These women are mother and daughter pair Kumiko and Kimiko, two wacky individuals who are up to their eyeballs in debt and are constantly on the lookout for the latest scam to get them cash in hand. One day the two women see Daizen Higashi Oizuki, the president of powerful society H.O.P.E.S, driving by in a big flashy car with aid and consort Kichijoji Futoshi sitting by his side. Mistaking Kichijoji’s school-uniform attire as meaning he’s the son and heir to the obviously mega-wealthy Daizen, they hatch a plan to ensnare Kichijoji in a honey trap. However, when Kichijoji reciprocates to the Kimiko’s advances and takes her and Kumiko to see his dirt-poor family back in the country before they marry, the women decide to make a break for freedom. Meanwhile the asteroid is still approaching…
A wildly bi-polar film that combines tongue-in-cheek film parody with the crazy improvisational style of Getting Any? Glory To The Filmmaker! sees Kitano in fine comedic form. The first act of the film plays out in a format where a narrator basically introduces each new film Kitano made after giving up gangster films and stating the reasons for starting the project, then we see a heavily abridged version of said film with an explanation why the project bombed. Each segment lasts around 5-15minutes and every one is a very tight, concise, and wickedly accurate parody of modern Japanese cinematic fads. Even Ozu does not escape his satiric gaze, as the first film he attempts is a black & white post war story about an aging salaryman who has just started his retirement. The film bombed, the narrator tells us, because “it had less class than Ozu” and “the leading man (played by Kitano) looked more like an illiterate labourer than a salaryman”. This is just the first of many insults Kitano makes about his appearance and generally inert cinematic persona. Other parodies follow, some work better than others, but all completely hit their mark and are uncannily accurate in their portrayals. One of the best is Kitano’s attempt at a nostalgic drama film, a thinly veiled mickey-take of Always: Sunset on Third Street, which was set in the streets of Tokyo in the 1950s. Here though, Kitano draws on his own childhood and moves the location to a rural village, where poverty is rife and children are either dreaming of being Rikidozan, or dying from dodgy sweets they buy at the local candy store, or having to spend their days working as labourers. “Right time, wrong place” says the narrator as he informs us that audiences can forgive Kitano for making uber-violent gangster films, but to nostalgically look back at a time and place when life was abject misery for many Japanese children was “completely out of order”.
What makes these parodies so effective are the purposeful settings and a restrained subtlety and irony that ensures the humour still remains strong on repeat viewings - even though few of the gags will make you bust a gut with prolonged laughter. This well planned style lasts for just over 40minutes, until Kitano’s latest film “The Promised Day” kicks in and the tone switches abruptly to anarchic improvisational insanity. The result is an immediate drop in the consistency of the gags, but somewhat ironically the madcap rapid-fire delivery also ensures that there are more laugh out loud moments. With no narrative to speak of by this point, Glory To The Filmmaker! plays out as a series of (sometimes random) sketches, with each scene predicated on increasingly absurd scenarios; like a Ramen store that’s populated and ran by giant wrestlers who duke it out in a mighty Battle Royale and trash the store, or a company chairman who acts like a slapstick comedian but expects his staff to keep a straight face around him. Then there’s Kitano himself as Kichijoji; a man who dresses like a school kid and can turn into an iron doll whenever things get awkward for him! All these gags and many more just zip by during the first 20minutes or so of The Promised Day. Most of them are extremely funny, but as the film reaches its halfway point the forced humour becomes a little tired, until only the occasional gag elicits any belly laughs – and with no narrative to fall back on, the sketches become less involving. Eventually you’re left flummoxed by the surrealness of some of the sketches – like a couple of 2D Monty Pythonesque animation sequences that are bizarrely abstract.
Thankfully things do get back on track for a truly bravura ending that should ensure you finish the film with a grin on your face, even though - just like Getting Any? - Glory To The Filmmaker! is destined to divide Kitano’s fan base right down the middle. Well, at least we know the great man himself will get a chortle out of that!
PresentationPresented anamorphically at 1.81:1 Emotion have provided an adequate presentation of the film for this r2j DVD release. The colour scheme is a touch muted, but generally the colours are nicely defined, with no bleeding and a little chroma noise. The print is in excellent condition, I only noticed one or two flecks creeping into the frame. The image is a just touch soft, and mild edge enhancement has been applied, but generally detail levels are fine, as are contrast and brightness levels. The only major negative thing I can say about the image is that it appears to have been struck from an interlaced source (most likely a tape master) and then inadequately de-interlaced, resulting in jaggies in almost every frame. There is no ghosting though.
Japanese DD5.1 or DD2.0 are the audio options present on the disc, after listening to both I have to say that the DD5.1 track is quite aggressive. Dialogue is loud and clear and the bass is very heavy but pretty tight nevertheless. It’s not just the dialogue that’s so clear, all the audio elements are well defined, giving excellent dynamics. Similarly, the soundstage is wide and expressive and the rear channels are frequently used. In comparison the DD2.0 surround track is much more restrained and, while the dialogue is nice and clear, the dynamics are far less pronounced. In general it sounds flat once you’ve heard the 5.1 track, but it still does a perfectly good job with the material.
Optional Japanese and English subtitles are included, with no spelling errors that I can recall.
ExtrasThere are three extra features on this disc, they are:
”One Fine Day” Short Film: This is a three minute short film Kitano made for the “To Each His Own Cinema” collective film that was shown at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The film is basically about a farmer (Moro Morooka) who travels a few miles to a dingy, remote country cinema to watch Kids Return, only for the showing to constantly break down because of an inept projectionist (played by Kitano). It’s a fun little short, but nothing more than a momentary diversion. As the DVD is listed as a joint release of Glory To The Filmmaker! and One Fine Day, this film is presented to the standards of the main film, complete with anamorphic image, a choice of Japanese DD5.1 or DD2.0 soundtracks, and removable Japanese and English subtitles.
Takeshi Kitano Interview: A 10minute interview with the director discussing his work on Glory To The Filmmaker!, there are no English subtitles available, so I cannot say any more about this feature.
Theatrical Trailer: Pretty much as it sounds, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.