After Kurosawa’s death he became the most influential representative of the Land of the Rising Sun in the world cinema. Kitano is a master of duality. His face seems to impersonate two different individuals due to…
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*To understand Yakuza one need to understand aspects of Japanese culture. Japan still remains an eternal archetype of something opposite to European culture. Kitano’s movies show the distinguishing features of Japanese art of cinema which can hardly be compared with traditional Hollywood or European movie industry. But there is something that is pushed to the periphery in Europe, tucked away in a corner. This something openly exists in Japan and Hong Kong, but is not associated with the “mysterious East” among New Age fans. This is Yakuza. To understand Japan is to understand Yakuza. That is to understand violence.*
Sonatine (1993) is the first movie by Kitano which brought him cult fame outside Japan. Sonatina is a mix of few movies in one – it’s an explosive mixture of a thriller, cop movie, comedy and melodrama. One of Kitano’s favorite ideas, borrowed from Kurosawa, a belief that even the most intense movie needs to give a viewer a moment to catch his breath, is brought to perfection here. Starting like a typical Yakuza film (big boss sends his subordinate Murakawa with a gang to Osaka, where a gang war begins), Sonatina changes its tempo in the middle and changes the genre: forced to wait for new orders on a tropical beach, yakuza, for forty minutes of screen time, live almost an idyllic life, cutting out figures from paper, arranging fireworks and folk dances. However, Murakawa’s (played by Kitano himself) fun is alarming: he digs hidden pits on the beach and has fun when his companions fall down; he forces his subordinates to play Russian roulette with a gun in which no bullets. All these actions serve as a further indication of the plot development: pit is a metaphor of a trap that caught Murakawa and his men, set up by their own boss, and Russian roulette leads to Murakawa’s suicide (the movie poster shows Kitano with a gun near his
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