Achilles and the Tortoise

achilles1

Akiresu To Kame

Japan/2008/35mm/colour/119’/Japanese

The final installment in an iconoclastic trilogy on creative destruction, Achilles and the Tortoise is Takeshi Kitano’s newest reflection on art and life. Unlike the author’s previous works Takeshis’ and Glory to the Filmmaker! – both of which were highly conceptual ruminations on the vocation and philosophy of filmmaking this latest effort carries a more open, audience-friendly message.

The film takes its title from a famous paradox by the pre-Socratic philosopher Zeno, which claimed that motion, time and change are nothing but illusions. Achilles and the Tortoise tackles the idea that art is a chimera, and follows the absurd, star-crossed life of a man with no talent. As a result of his father’s love of modern Western art, Machisu (Reo Yoshioka), a quiet, introverted child, is inspired to become a painter himself. Obsessive and obstinate – yet talentless – the child devotes all of his time to painting, not even losing heart when his father, once a wealthy factory owner, goes bankrupt and commits suicide.

As a young adult, Machisu (Yurei Yanag) continues to find comfort in his mediocre art and in the company of a group of fellow students with whom he shares the unrealistic dream of becoming famous. With banal results, he mimics all of the fashionable trends, from pop art to abstract expressionism, and struggles through life in a crescendo of crazy irrationality. Machisu (now played by Beat Takeshi himself), his stubborn lack of talent persisting into adulthood, eventually spirals into disturbed, upsetting behaviour.

Sophisticated and original, Achilles and the Tortoise features a rich procession of paintings by Kitano. Though designed to represent the failure of an amateur artist, these works are actually quite fascinating. Furnishing an elegant subtext to the film’s smooth narrative texture, the pictures write Machisu’s emotional history, filling in his many silences. Tinted with unusual chromatic choices – sepia fading around the coloured paintings of his childhood, psychedelic acrylic shades portraying his youth – the film skilfully embeds high-art meditations in a relatively simple storyline. It offers a perfect theorem, destined to outpace Zeno’s paradox and restore reality to art.

Giovanna Fulvi

Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano was born in Tokyo and has enjoyed enormous success in Japan as a stand-up comedian, actor and visual artist. His filmography includes Violent Cop (89), Sonatine (93), Kids Return (96), Fireworks (97), Kikujiro (99), Brother (00), Dolls (02), Zatôichi (03), which won the Festival’s People’s Choice Award in 2003, Takeshis’ (05), the segment Une Belle journée for the film anthology Chacun son cinéma (07) and Glory to the Filmmaker! (07). Achilles and the Tortoise (08) is his eleventh feature to screen at the Festival.

Direction, screenplay: Takeshi kitano

Producer: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida

Cinematography: katsumi yanagijima

Editing: yoshinori Ota, Takeshi Kitano

Sound: senji Horiuchi

Cast: Takeshi kitano, kanako higuchi, yurei yanagi, Kumiko Aso

Awards/Festival

Venice Film Festival, 2008

Takeshi kitano was born in Tokyo in 1947 and enterd show business in 1972 as “Beat” Takeshi, the stage name he continues to use today as a performer. Since his 1989 directorial debut, kitano has written, directed, edited or starred in almost a film per year without losing the momentum of his originality and heightened artistic

Filmography

Glory to the Filmmaker!(2007), Takeshis’ (2005), Zatoichi (2003), Dolls (2002), Brother (2000), Kikujiro no natsu (1999), Fireworks (1997), Kids Return (1996), Minna-yetteruka! (1995), sonatine (1993), Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi (1991), Boiling point (1990), Violent cop (1989)

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