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Who is Takeshi Kitano?

'Beat' Takeshi Kitano is a popular figure on Japanese television, a regular stand-up comedian and programme host. His nickname 'Beat' comes from his days as part of a comedy duo known as 'The Two Beats' and his film acting prior to Violent Cop was limited to a role as Sergeant Hara in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (Oshima, 1982). Apparently, when Japanese audiences first saw him in Violent Cop they burst out in laughter (imagine Frank Skinner playing Dirty Harry.)

In addition to his jobs as film director, comedian and television host he is also a singer, writer and painter. The way in which these roles impact on his life can be seen in the way he uses his name, calling himself Takeshi Kitano when he is directing and 'Beat' Takeshi when acting. These two sides to his persona are what make his films interesting to a fan - in a given scene, is Kitano being Takeshi the Director or 'Beat' the Actor/Comedian?

Kitano's films are all comedies to a certain extent. That is, his awareness of comic timing is central to his work as a director and his films constantly swing from extremes of humour to graphic violence and melancholy introspection. But how do the aesthetics of his films show this? And what do they say about the themes and obsessions that recur throughout his work? This website will look at both of these aspects: the aesthetics that define his films as progressively more unique and the themes that are highlighted by them. Three of his most popular films (in the West, at least) will be looked at in more detail; Violent Cop, Sonatine and Hana-Bi. All three are similar, being genre Yakuza movies featuring Kitano in the central role, usually playing a taciturn character with violent tendencies torn between duty and his personal beliefs. Two of these characters are cops, the other is a gangster, but they are all essentially extensions of each other.

Please note that I am deliberately limiting this site's content to focus on Kitano's films as I have no direct access to his other works. If anybody can enlighten me as to the specifics of his other roles, however, please don't hesitate to discuss them here.

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