This film hits a personal chord with me due to the plot being semi-relatable to my own. The story follows the life of a boy who loves art and destined to become an artist, though fail to achieve success due to lack of originality and excessive imitation. When Dad goes bankrupt and hangs himself things start to get really depressing. In Kitano’s film, Achilles would be Machisu, a young boy fascinated by art, and the tortoise is success. So now that you understand that, Achilles and the Tortoise is a good opportunity for him to use his hobby as a tool to reflect. What I really liked about this film is that it explores what art really is, and pokes fun at the absurdity of some of today’s so-called ‘modern art’.
The film starts of rather slow making the opening 45-minute segment, the films most enjoyable portion. After which, The moment he goes to school to learn about art he loses his spirit and becomes a parody of what an artist is supposed to be. I suppose being a bit of an art snob I could pick and critque a lot of the films material while maintaing the idea that I had to also pay attention to structure and pacing. It’s very nice to see all these things come together to create something that feels solid. Those who are familiar with Kitano’s work will appreciate how well this character fits with his best-known screen persona. Having learned this is the 3rd in a trilogy, I am unaware of the other films and can not make an accurate comparison. I am only familiar with the filmmaker other bodies of work. Still, it has all the good old Kitano ingredients such weird humour and underplayed characters.
To be honest I’m not sure what I think of the film. It is a solid film, yes, but I am not sure the story sets out what it wants to accomplish. Where Takashi takes over, is a darkly funny look at the extremes some people go to create. I like different films especially from Japan and this fits the category, interesting from beginning to end, a sad film in my opinion but with lots of messages for art lovers if you look that deep into the story, a bit like Rembrandts ‘Nightwatching’. His work is distinctive and persistent, but there is a coldness, even a cluelessness, about it that is unappealing. Although I professed I loved the beginning of the film, it is a patience game to get through it and I think the film is worth trying, especially once you get to the middle section.
Every time the work gets better, he’s advised to go in a different direction. Many mildly humorous situations arise but the film isn’t going for outright laughs most of the time. This is especially true in real life as I have had clients do this exact thing to me. This is a great piece of film on how people approach art, want to understand art and want to profit from it. It is also good to see that Kitano can walk away from it in the end with a contented heart and a freed soul. It also depicts the suffering of an artist whose works are not ‘understood’ by others. In any case, casting was done extremely well, and all the actors gave a great performance for this wonderful movie. Be on the look out for this unique film.