Kikujiro Review

Nov 04, 2008 | 12:48pm EST

Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) spends his summer vacation running away from

home and searching for the mother he never knew. A nosy neighbor sends

her no-good husband Kikujiro (Beat Takeshi) to look after the boy but

instead causes more trouble as the two hitchhike gamble and swindle

their way across Japan. Along the way the pair encounter a bizarre

collection of characters transforming the film into a sort of kooky

Asian "Wizard of Oz.

The players rise to the challenge of a script sparse in dialogue

effectively conveying character through expression and making the film

less dependent on its subtitles. Young Sekiguchi is especially

captivating employing few words and a face cuter and rounder than

Pikachu. Sekiguchi’s performance equals the fine young thespians in

foreign faves "Ponette" and "Ma Vie en Rose." Takeshi is alternately

sleazy and funny as the bumbling custodian neglecting and exploiting

his charge while sincerely caring. Mercifully he never succumbs to the

curmudgeon-with-a-heart-of-gold cliché plaguing too many Hollywood

dramas. Despite decades of age difference the duo gel onscreen for this

effective and unusual buddy movie

Writer/director/editor Takeshi Kitano unfurls his story slowly possibly

turning off blockbuster-bred American audiences. (If it’s mainstream

you’re looking for it’s unlikely you’d be cooling your heels for two

hours in front of a Japanese-language film.) Kitano rewards the patient

with believable characters comical moments and a rarely seen look at

modern Japan free of high-tech terror flashy city lights and

generational family conflicts

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