‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano
by Tom Mes
'Beat' Takeshi Kitano is one of the surprisingly few English-language books to come out on the man who is arguably Japanese cinema's best-known contemporary exponent. Comprised of a collection of essays and reviews on its subject's life and work, this amply-illustrated volume makes for a decent introduction on Kitano, and also gives facts and insights on the man's youth, his rise and reign as an alternative comedian, and his early acting appearances. Also included are interviews with Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence collaborators Nagisa Oshima, Tom Conti, and Jeremy Thomas.
The book is a collection of writings by mainly Japanese critics, including Kasho Abe and Tomo Machiyama. The connecting factor seems to be the writers' boundless admiration for their subject, however. The only piece of criticism in the book comes in the guise of Tommy Udo's deconstruction of Oshima's film, which savages just about every aspect of the film - except Kitano's performance, naturally. This is hardly the book to buy for a balanced critical view of Kitano's work, but it will provide a nicely illuminating read on the director/actor/comedian/painter/superstar. Anyone looking for something with a little (or a lot) more meat on the bones is strongly advised to choose Aaron Gerow's authoritative study Kitano Takeshi instead.