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[whitespace] 'Boiling Point'
Welcome to the Jungle: Takeshi Kitano gets back to nature in 'Boiling Point.'

Takeshi Time

Two of Beat Takeshi's films get revived

By Richard von Busack

TAKESHI KITANO, also known as Beat Takeshi is a Japanese director, comedian and memoirist perhaps best known for his work on an incredibly sadistic TV game show that, on one memorable occasion, dropped some hapless contestants locked into a school bus into the ocean. (They were rescued.) His recent film Fireworks is still the best of his exports here. It is a tale of the aftermath of a police shooting in which the participants still suffer, emotionally and physically. While fans of Asian films are accustomed to a mix of hard violence and soft hearts--as in the works of John Woo--the proportion of the mix is much different in Fireworks, where there is a lot of sentiment and very little violence. (Fireworks was made after Takeshi nearly killed himself in a motorcycle crash, seriously messing up his face in the accident.) Violent Cop (1989) and Boiling Point (1990), which show this week as part of the Asian Pop Cinema Series at the Towne Theater, are far less complex than Fireworks.

Of the two, Violent Cop is both the most accessible and yet less interesting, a pastiche of Dirty Harry in which the hero, Azuma (Takeshi), trails the drug dealers who kidnapped his sister. It must have been a shock for the Japanese, accustomed to meet rudeness with a curt nod or a bowed head, to see Takeshi slapping the faces of punks who were asking for it, but for an American viewer, this kind of acting-out is just more of the same. For example: one low-angled shot at the base of a staircase sets you up, inevitably, for Azuma to kick a miscreant down the stairs. And so forth.

By contrast, Boiling Point courts incoherence with its fractured narrative and peculiar passages. The film is as odd as the dreamy, sleepy face of its inert hero, Masaki (Masahiko Ono), a sad-sack gas-station employee whose entire scandalous gangster career may be nothing but one long reverie during the slow parts of a baseball game. Masaki is the official goat of his amateur baseball team. This handsome, peculiar film follows a parcel of warring yakuzas to the tropic beaches at Okinawa, where guns are available, to the far outskirts of Tokyo (which look like Vallejo, really). I'd be lying if I said I could make complete sense of the tale. The jumping of incidents from scene to scene are unusual even for a Japanese film. Takeshi violates traditional laws of film noir structure and atmosphere, and strange incidents abound: a yakuza finger-cutting of apology thoroughly messed up because no one knows how to do it right ... and, of course, the scenes of gangsters tip toeing through the bird-of-paradise fields, gathering flowers ... but then I woke up. ...

Violent Cop/Boiling Point (1989/1990), two films by Beat Takeshi Kitano, play Nov. 12-18 in San Jose at the Towne Theater.

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From the November 11-17, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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