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Takeshi Kitano: Destroy All Yakuza

MUBI Special

This winter we celebrate the birthday of one of Japan’s great contemporary filmmakers, Takeshi Kitano, with a suite of films devoted to battling the Yakuza. Punctuated by staccato violence yet surprisingly touching, it is still a shock to consider that these films emerged from a celebrity who was best known as a comedian and television host before circumstances led him to not only act in but make his directorial debut with Violent Cop (1989). Both in his on-screen presence as an actor and in his directorial sensibility, Kitano forged a style that was radically distinct from his television comedy: A pared down approach towards genre stories that bordered on minimalism which made moments of humor, bloodshed, and emotion punctuate each story’s evocative restraint. For our series, we’ve chosen to highlight four cops and criminals-themed films from across Kitano’s career, beginning with his first two movies, which are followed by his sublime Golden Lion winner, Fireworks, and concluding with the final entry in his series on the self-destruction of the Yakuza, Outrage.

Violent Cop

Takeshi Kitano Japan, 1989

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Takeshi Kitano: Destroy
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Takeshi “Beat” Kitano was foremost known in Japan for his comedic television persona—that is until he took over directing duties for this incendiary tale of corruption and violence. Kitano’s first incision into what manifests violence is resplendent with his signature deadpan wit and staccato grace.

Boiling Point

Takeshi Kitano Japan, 1990

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Takeshi Kitano: Destroy
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In his second feature film, Takeshi Kitano dives further into Japan’s underworld by way of a baseball player turned patsy in this carefully plotted road trip lined with vengeance. Boiling Point deepens Kitano’s analysis of male violence…while also featuring one of cinema’s greatest karaoke scenes.

Outrage Coda

Takeshi Kitano Japan, 2017

We close our retrospective with the latest film by and starring Takeshi Kitano, which captures the withering decay of the Yakuza’s mores and customs in a merciless struggle across and within neighboring clans. Beneath the turbulent surface of this gang war lies an indelible meditation on old age.

Fireworks

Takeshi Kitano Japan, 1997

Who’d have expected a Japanese TV host and comedian to be such a poignant filmmaker? This week we begin a retrospective of some of Takeshi Kitano’s best Yakuza films, masterpieces of staccato force and sublime simplicity. This is our favorite, combating unsparing violence with bare sentimentality.

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