Kikujiro (1999) Poster

(1999)

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10/10
Demonstrates that Kitano is still a master without the violence
simon_booth17 March 2002
By 1999 Takeshi Kitano had quite rightly gained a lot of international recognition for his brilliantly constructed Yakuza/Cop stories, but was apparently dis-satisfied that everybody tended to focus on the violence in them. So he decided to make a movie without any violence to remind people that he was a much more rounded talent than that. "Are you sure about this?", the world asked. "Yes", he replied... and made Kikujiro.

Kikujiro is difficult to adequately describe, but the fact that it was allegedly inspired by the Wizard of Oz is a good starting point. The basic premise is a road trip, where Kitano is the unlikely chaperone for a little boy who wants to go and find his mother. After gambling away all the money his wife gives him to take the kid, they have to improvise their transport across the country. Along the way they meet a small but colourful cast of characters, and get to know each other a little bit too.

I'd hesitated about picking this up for ages, and eventually went for a rental rather than a purchase. Kitano minus violence just didn't seem right! But that was definitely an injustice I was doing him, and Kikujiro is a good demonstration that his talents really are much broader. In fact, after watching it there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest director/actor/writer and editor working in the world today. A brilliantly painted story, full of subtly and quirkiness. Awesome cinematography and an incredible soundtrack... truly world class in every respect. Well, to be fair the child actor was a bit stiff, but it seems mean to hold that against the movie.

Definitely recommended if you haven't already seen it!
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Takeshi Kitano's most underrated movie.
Infofreak22 November 2003
Western audiences basically only know Beat Takeshi for his tough guy persona. Japanese audiences have seen many sides to him for a long time, and probably regard him as a comedian more than anything else. Maybe this is the reason why 'Kikujiro' isn't all that well known. Takeshi wrote and directed this movie as a follow up to his most celebrated work 'Hana-bi', but as it isn't a yakuza crime drama, it seems to have been largely overlooked. And that's a damn shame, because it's a very good movie, and anyone who enjoys Kitano's work will enjoy it. On paper the plot looks very Disney-like (grumpy old coot hits the road with an unhappy kid), but hey, this is Beat Takeshi, so what he does with it is always original and surprising. Much of the movie is playful, but then much of 'Sonatine' was too, only 'Kikujiro' doesn't mix that up with the orgy of violence you might expect from watching Kitano's better known movies. However it does have some dark moments that you would NEVER see in a Hollywood film dealing with similar "heart warming" subject matter, especially the "scary man" sequence featuring Akaji Maro, an actor you might recognise from Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'. I enjoyed 'Kikujiro' a lot, and the more Kitano movies I see, the more I think he is one of the most underrated directors working today.
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9/10
Beat Takeshi's Audacious, Edgy and Heartwarming Road Movie
EUyeshima13 December 2005
In the title role of this highly original 1999 road movie, Beat Takeshi - with his twitching eye and bow-legged shuffle - looks and acts like a cross between Mickey Rourke and Harvey Keitel with a heavy dose of Walter Matthau's sourpuss demeanor (circa "The Bad News Bears") for good measure. He creates a truly memorable character - cynically profane, unapologetically insulting, childishly manipulative and somehow likable. As the director and screenwriter of said film, Takeshi Kitano - the same guy - has fashioned something quite unique from a tired premise - a boy's search for his mother and the gruff man who begrudgingly helps find her. What could have been a predictable and sentimental wallow, especially with the indiscriminate use of angels as a pervasive symbol, is instead an idiosyncratic, emotionally adroit film that sometimes simmers on the cusp of violence.

Yet it becomes ultimately affecting almost in spite of itself. In fact, Kitano does such a resolutely offbeat job that at certain times, the film reminds me of the narrative ellipses and low steady shots that were the trademark of Yasujiro Ozu's home dramas, intermingled with a surprisingly intense Quentin Tarantino-like, in-your-face edginess. The protagonist of the film is really the latch-key nine-year old, Masao, who is on a quest to find the mother whom his grandmother says is "away working". With his sad eyes and cherubic face, Yusuke Sekiguchi is perfectly cast as Masao providing the moral compass for the story. Whether he is running with his arms flailing or forlornly playing soccer by himself, he is poignant without being saccharine and completely natural. It is Masao's scrapbook that provides the framework for the film lending each chapter a descriptive title. Every chapter has a distinct character that is, in various turns, playful, hilarious, disturbing, surreal and heartbreaking. Case in point: Kitano is not afraid to use a child molester as first an uncomfortable source of black humor and then as the subject of Masao's nightmare. My favorite scenes come toward the end when Kikujiro organizes a motley crew of misfits to play games with Masao and have them masquerade as Indians, aliens, marine life and even watermelons. The variety in tone between chapters makes for unexpected tonal shifts, but somehow it works and adds to the greater context of the story.

That Kitano is able to manage a consistent film-making style with a strong visual sense is a credit to the talent behind the camera - not only Kitano's direction, script and film editing but also his artwork showcased throughout the movie, Katsumi Yanagishima's sharply rendered cinematography and Joe Hisaishi's evocative Windham Hill-like score. There are some funny sideline performances from Gidayu Great and Rakkyo Ide as Fatso and Baldy, two bikers who turn out to be the Abbott and Costello of soft-hearted slackers; Nezumi Mamura as a free-spirited drifter; Fumie Hosokawa as a relentlessly perky girl with a talent for juggling; and in the opening sequence, Kayoko Kishimoto as Kikujiro's take-no-prisoners wife. Kitano, however, elicits the most laughs if only for the film's central conceit that he gets away with his infantile gangster behavior. One would think the story would climax when Masao comes upon his mother, but Kitano confounds expectations with every new scene. The DVD really has no extras other than a couple of trailers not related to the film (not coincidentally, one is for Walter Salles' "Central Station" which has a similar story structure). I know this film has its detractors, especially among fans of Kitano's bloodier work, but I find it intriguingly ambiguous and thoroughly enjoyable.
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10/10
Funny, subtle storytelling
vincent.vega-21 April 2004
Kikujiro is a movie with beautiful calmness that's a great diversity from the fast cut movies today. Takeshi Kitano proofs once and for all, that he's a master filmmaker that will forever be remembered. And even though he dislikes the fame that goes along with his more successful movies (Zatoichi), it's a shame he doesn't get more recognition for his films.

Kikujiro no natsu tells the story of a kid who decides to visit his mother that he never met. Through odd circumstances kikujiro (Kitano), though absolutely unqualified, is forced to lead the kid. But as we see only moments later the boy would be better off alone, as kikujiro's fondness of gambling and (very amusing) way to treat people makes the journey a funny and quite touching odyssee.

What stands out in this movie is the simple comedy. It shows Kitano started off as a comedian, and his dialogue and acting made me almost spill my milk more than a few times. This is certainly one of his best. A great film for a quiet, rainy sunday afternoon.
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10/10
One of the best and most beautiful films about growing love between man and a boy
mateusz-223 October 2004
Maybe Takeshi Kitano remembered his travel with his father (Kikujiro), maybe he just wanted to show his father just like he wanted to see him. Anyway this film, despite of very few words and quite simple dialogue lines, shows so many emotions that after seeing it, sometimes laughing, sometimes sad and full of empathy, i have spent many days thinking of it. How can grown-up simple man witch is not quite good in relationships with people, can spent so much time with little boy. How so violent person can show beautiful world to sad little boy. Takeshi is one of my favorite actor/director/writer. I discovered him just by being bored with all-the-same Hollywood movies. Now, thanks to him, I'm truly in "love" with Asian movies. For those who liked this movie, and wants to see some good others, see the Hana-Bi (little violent, but even more deep) and Dolls (i was crying - one reason was i was touched, second - beauty of the colors and form).....For me its just one word - Outstanding.
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10/10
It is not a film . . .
nizsu4 March 2008
I have heard a lot of people said that this film was not recognized as much as his other films. What a shame! When I saw the tittle of the film, I was surprised. The tittle is Kitano's father name.

In Kitano's biography, it is said that "Kitano's father was an alcoholic and would spend most of the money he earned on alcohol, and when he had been drinking, he would become violent and beat up both his wife and his kids. Eventually, Kikujiro left his family".

I know Kitano Takeshi made this film because he has been tired of violence/gangsters/life&death in his previous film, but what made him writing a story about his father-a man who abandoned his family when Kitano was young. If you read Kitano Takeshi's biography, you should see his childhood memory in Masao. Kikujiro ( in the film) is a corrupted person. But also in the film, Masao eventually respects and loves to play with that childish man who keeps smoking and shouting at people. Does Kitano himself desire a father too much, so he is willing to accept his father's bad habits as long as his father is still at his side.

It is not really a film I'd say, I feel like I am seeing the characters in real life. From the start, Masao has drawn Kikujiro in his diary. The ending is also the beginning. Kitano didn't make a happy ending nor a sad ending. Our 3 hours is just to see the beginning of a father-and-son relationship which would grows by the time. Remember, Masao just knew Kikujiro's name in the end of the film, and Kikujiro said: "Let's do it again some time". The cycle of life in "Kikujiro" go on forever. The feeling is too real. I have forgot that I were watching a movie. There is no simple words that can describe this movie completely, u have to watch it by yourself
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9/10
A wonderful, delightful movie
dog_fc2 February 2006
From its hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi to the wonderful characters who inhabit Takeshi Kitano's magical Japan - everything in this movie comes together to make this one of modern cinema's truly underrated masterpiece.

The story involves a petty thug, Kikujiro, who is coerced into accompanying a young boy, Masao, on his cross country journey to find his birth mother. Along the way they meet a whole host of characters. Some friendly, some mysterious, some quirky, some abrasive, but all of them refreshingly human.

A lesser writer or director would have settled for a quick dose of weirdness from the main characters' fellow wanderers, but Takeshi Kitano milks them for all of the depth and endearment that the too few minutes we are graced with their presence allows.

If you enjoyed the whimsical, go-nowhere feel of Lost in Translation, you will LOVE this movie. In my opinion Beat Takeshi's efforts blow Sophia Coppola's out of the water.

Nine out of ten.
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7/10
The lighter side of Takeshi Kitano - childhood summer memories in abundance
ruby_fff15 October 2000
Vignettes of childhood memories - possibly Kitano's own childhood experiences and impressions, "Kikujiro" is not like the deep or layered deliveries Kitano has in "Fireworks" (Hana-bi) 1997, or "Sonatine" 1994. There are no cops or graphic depictions of violence. There are still some gangster-type characters, but the encounters are simple, requiring no synthesis. Kitano's familiar elements and locales are present: drawings, vignettes, seaside, temple, and angels.

It's really a loving portrayal of one little boy, Masao's, summer, spent with this seemingly eccentric retired gangster "Mister" played by Kitano. We have a pair of comic bikers, a lone van traveler, an arguing truck driver, a fun juggling couple, prankish hitchhiking gags, and a rather extensive betting session at the (bicycle) races. There are occasions for sentimental tears, for instance, when "Mister" took a side trip to visit his own mother; but play is the key operative here. Even though the child appears to be a sulky non-smiling little boy most of the time, a boy will be a boy when it comes to play and open up to lightness of the heart.

If you're the hurrying kind, this film may not be for you. The film is at its own flow and pace. It's Masao's summer vacation adventures, and he's not in a hurry to go home. Joe Hisaishi's theme music for "Kikujiro" certainly is catchy and the score gave Kitano's film its rhythm and accents along this unlikely pair's journey - a grown man, who's become childlike once more while escorting Masao on his quest to fulfill the dream of seeing his mother. Does it matter whether Masao sees his mother or not? He gains a friend, Kikujiro.

Kudos to Sony Pictures Classics for their film distribution selections! At the recent Bravo cable channel's IFC (Independent Film Channel) tenth Gotham Awards, Catherine Deneuve presented the Industry Lifetime Achievement Award to the trio: Tom Bernard, Marcie Bloom, Michael Barker. It was noted: "This award is being created specifically for this year's ceremony to honor the trio for their 20 years of service as champions of independent filmmakers." Besides the theme from Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown", Joe Hisaishi's music from "Kikujiro" was mostly used during the montage of the film clips. Films the trio has co-produced include the popular 1999 Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run" (German), Pedro Almodovar's 1999 triumph "All About My Mother" (Spanish), the Brazilian gem in 1998 "Central Station", Hal Hartley's 1997 saga "Henry Fool", John Sayles' 1996 hit "Lone Star", the 1995 French surprise "The City of Lost Children", and as far back as 1971 Vittorio De Sica's "The Garden of the Finzi-Contini".
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7/10
Sweet contemplative film about friendship
Polaris_DiB2 December 2005
If it wasn't for the perverted old man and the language, this would probably be a really good children's movie. Who knows, maybe it's intended to be...

Anyway, little Masao lives with his grandmother and has never met his parents: his father is dead and his mother ran away. He knows where his mother lives, however, and wants to go visit her over the Summer, so his kindly neighbor conscripts her profligate husband to take him. "Mister", as Masao calls him, doesn't make the ideal companion with his absurd behavior and his verbal abuse, but they go off to adventure anyways and learn to really connect with each other.

The power this film has lies mostly in its contemplative approach. It's very humorous and isn't really slow, but the camera does take the time to linger on locales, faces, and characters. For a few odd parts here and there, it's still really innocent and it seems to show that most people are kind-natured at heart, even when they project an aura of toughness and abusiveness. An interesting aside to analyze that theme would be the carnival scene, where people entrusted with family entertainment turn out to be violent cheaters, whereas even the heavy-metal biker folk are more than willing to go out of their way to help Masao.

The film itself is from Masao's perspective, as a childhood's slightly photographic memory comes into play, mixed a lot with colorful imagination. The humor is the best part, as it is at times really simple but holds itself up well. There's a lot to enjoy in this film.

--PolarisDiB
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A sweet family film from Kitano.
Captain_Couth3 December 2003
Kikujiro (1999) is a tale about a little boy who so desperately wants to see his mother. He's accompanied on the trip by an old rascal named Kikujiro. The two make an unlikely pair of traveling companions. It's a sweet film and an interesting change of pace for Takeshi Kitano. He plays

with more of his comedic side in this picture. I enjoyed this movie very much. A fun trip down memory lane. Kitano shows that he can be humorous and light hearted as well as he is hard-boiled and stoic. Recommended.

A
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Exactly what you'd hope for when the most insane/creative/unique director on earth decides to make a family film!
clearlydimented29 March 2004
An extremely enjoyable movie!!! It focuses on a kid who lives with his grandmother, trying to go meet his real mother. Takishe is forced to accompany the child in order to ensure a safe trip. Luckily he screwed up & misbehaved in a wide assortment of hilarious situations.

Definitely recommended as an enjoyable movie to watch for everyone. There is enough unique visuals and interesting situations to easily entertain any first time viewer.

The dialog is also extremely light, no 10 minute conversations or useless stuff like that. So dont let the subtitles deter you from viewing the movie.
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7/10
Summertime in Japan--a picaresque road trip
KFL11 November 2005
Takeshi Kitano plays Kikujiro, a combative, ne'er-do-well drifter who is badgered into taking a young boy, Masao, from Tokyo to Toyohashi to meet his mother--for the first time ever.

Someone with a little money and with what passes these days for common sense could get there in maybe an hour by bullet train. Kikujiro and Masao take the, umm, scenic route.

Anyone who has spent much time in Japan may be feeling "natsukashii" (nostalgia...well, not quite) well before the halfway point. What would, with a sensible adult guide, be an utterly forgettable day trip, is stretched out into a week or more, and becomes a complete summer vacation for Masao, with all that this entails in Japan--the summer festival, swimming in the ocean, the suika-wari game of blindfolded watermelon-bashing (with an amusing variation here), and so on. The "summer vacation" aspect is emphasized by the intertitles introducing each segment, which are presented as photos, complete with captions, that the boy might have taken on a real vacation.

The basic structure--the adult-child road trip--has been done before, of course (and a trailer for Central Station is included on the DVD). Some of the concerted attempts by the motley collection of adults to amuse Masao in the last quarter of the movie are rather too contrived. But this is, on the whole, a good-hearted movie (...somewhat rare for Kitano) that managed to make all of us smile.

...really, though, the title should have been "Masao no natsu", Masao's Summer Vacation.
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9/10
Reminds me I'm not the only person who feels alone and let down by life
pixelsdie27 May 2009
I think Kikujiro is mainly about loneliness.

Takeshi's character and the boy, Masao, seem really different on the surface. Takeshi's provokes people, is loud and rude. Masao is quiet and sad.

But they're really the same person: someone whose life is full of disappointment, abandonment. They both feel isolated, like no one could understand. They might be pitied, but no one could understand like they'd been there, like they'd lived that kind of life.

And when you get really lonely like that, I think it makes you bitter. The whole world continues to smile and sing its fortunes while your life seems to get worse and worse, less and less reason to stay living.

Masao is very withdrawn because of this. Over time, as he gets older, I can see him getting more and more bitter about it. Maybe Takeshi's character was like Masao at first, too. Lonely and sad. And then maybe he thought, "why should I be sad? All the world has brought me is misfortune. I should rather be angry!" and then started trying to provoke and anger people on purpose. Why should they be content, anyway? But, all the other characters they meet on the journey are like that, too. Isolates, people on the edge of society, people who might call themselves "countercultural" or something like that.

What I think is really important is how they change over the course of the movie. Like they might have the liberty to sit around all day, smoking and brooding and depressed. Masao is only a child, and all this kind of disappointment is new to him.

In a less realistic film maybe the characters would be, in their characteristic brooding way, like, "Eh, them's the breaks huh kid". In Kikujiro they're people. They can see how much he's like them, how much pain he's in. And they're so jaded because they're still hurting, too.

So they try and cheer him up, play games with him. Show him the kind of love he never got from anyone else in his life, that they never got. And it's so touching because they, especially Takeshi's character, start to see it's not so bad, not so hopeless. That everyone loves, and everyone cries, and just because their lives have been particularly worse than others doesn't mean they can't reach out to and come to an understanding with others.

The film's long takes sometimes feel kinda pointless, like they're just there because that's part of the director's style. But other times they really work, especially in the more emotional scenes. They help say more than any amount of ridiculous sad symphonic music could.

And the music, which is intermittent and plays on a single theme, is really good too. It doesn't feel like some kind of deliberately tragic cliché, but still adds a great amount to the mood of the movie and helped bring me to tears at some points.

Some negative reviews I've read call Kikujiro shallow or emotionally manipulative, but I can't see that at all. The whole thing is very human, and doesn't force any moral down your throat other than that, I guess, that you are not so alone. And it feels like it's coming from someone who has been alone, who has felt this incredible sadness, and also conquered it. And I think, that means more than I can really put into words.
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3/10
Initially promising, then breaks down into another weird-ass Japanese flick
Steve C13 June 2000
I'm a big foreign/art film fan, so of course I try to stay open minded. But this Japanese weird stuff has got to stop.

The first 2/3rds of the movie are fairly interesting - the kid and a guy who's maybe him except older go in search for his mom.

Then for the last 1/3rd we get to see a string of scenes where weird people do random & silly things. It remind me of the Southpark PokeMon episode - Stan's parents watch the cartoon, and say "what the hell is this supposed to mean?", and Stan's dad says "I don't know but somehow now I want to own all of the toys."

I have this hypothesis, and this movie bears it out pretty well. Japanese are really into being formal, nice, and hiding their emotions. Instead of actually dealing with the crisis, the old man gives the kid an toy which he says will make everything better. And then he orchestrates a whole bunch of crazy stuff to help the kid forget about what just happened, and the kid ends up happy. I see this pattern in Japanese movies.

I'm no psychologist, but somehow this doesn't seem to a good way of dealing with reality. The good Chinese movies that make it over here are at least good and at times brilliant, but the Japanese just throw suspense of disbelief out the window. I give it a 3.
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10/10
Incredibly sweet and surprising film
katiemuffett9 June 2009
This was an absolute delight from start to finish. Beat Takeshi made me laugh my socks off, and brought tears to my eyes when Kikujiro had poignant moments of insight and pathos. The chemistry between him and little Masao was pitch-perfect throughout the whole film, and the story itself built very naturally and beautifully.

My husband and a male friend of ours thought it would be too sappy for them (and opted for Mongol, which I had also rented). Thanks to Takeshi-san and his superb comic sensibility, I can now set their opinions straight.

As another user mentioned, this absolutely knocks a film like Lost in Translation out of the runnings. (Coppolla never seems to have grasped anything fully beyond Virgin Suicides anyway) There is something about this particular type of pacing in films that only Japanese directors can achieve. Any attempts by Westerners ends up as a mere pastiche.
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10/10
A quiet masterpiece that delights and affects long after its revels have ended
lukec-1126414 January 2019
An interesting movie journey in which you can not remain indifferent. The way Kitano shoots, plays and works is magnificent and everyone knows it, but here it is done in a particularly mild and shocking way. Must look
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5/10
a lazy outing from Kitano
CountZero3133 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Kikujiro no Natsu has gathered public and critical acclaim over the years, so it gives me no pleasure as a Kitano fan to state that the film is a flabby, undisciplined and self-indulgent episode in Kitano's film career. Kitano reverses his usual protagonist traits - the stoic, silent guy gives way to a volatile motor-mouth. The trademark graphic-schlock violence takes place off-screen. The tale is well-worn; the odd couple thrown together set out on a journey that changes both of their lives. Unfortunately, there is no evolution in the relationship to an emotional climax, just a few titters along the way.

The child character, Masao, is problematic. His quest is to meet his real mother, whose abandonment of him at an early age is never really explained, to Masao or the audience. At the moment where he sees his mother and her new family, it is not made clear what effect this has had on him. He cries, but does his past, no matter how traumatic, now make sense to him? Kikujiro sets out to distract the boy, and succeeds immediately. There is no progression in the boys recovery from the shock of seeing his mother for the first time - in fact, five minutes later, it is as if the whole episode had never happened. At the end, when Kikujiro says, "Let's look for your mother again," we do not know if the boy is aware of the lie or not. Strangely for this kind of movie, we do not care about the boy. Compare the child protagonists in Stand By Me, Leon, or Sixth Sense. This is not a cultural thing, as evidenced by the sympathetic portrayal of children abandoned by adults in Kore-eda's Nobody Knows or Iwai's Swallowtail Butterfly. In Kikujiro no Natsu, little Masao is more a totem pole for Kitano and his buddies to re-hash their slapstick comedy routines around.

The character of Kikujiro does not make sense either. The moment when he realises the parallels between his own life and Masao's is hackneyed in the extreme, a soliloquy to off- camera. His interaction with the boy is superficial, and the interaction of Kitano with the various quirky characters they encounter does not make any sense, either comedic or plot- driven. His visit to his mother in her Retirement Home merely ices the cake too sweetly.

The film seems to show more of the other Kitano, Beat the TV personality than Takeshi the filmmaker. The camping sequence with the obsequious bikers could come straight from one of his goofy game shows. The interaction with the farmer/banker at the bus stop is mildly funny if you realise the actor is Kitano's older brother, but just bizarre otherwise.

Some excellent cinematography and an outstanding score from Joe Hisaishi are two compensations in this disappointing, ill-advised film.
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9/10
A gem
kevin14212 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the great film because of my best English pen pal who I know by IMDb (knowing the pen pal is the luckiest thing happened in 2004 for me). In truth I am really grateful for IMDb because it supplies such a good place for movie buffs.

What I cherished most is the good relationship between people. It is the film reflected the most beautiful thing in the world with a quite funny way. One of unforgettable scenes is Kikujiro disguised himself as a blind man in order to stop a car to lift them. But it did not work. As the film carried on, my heart became warmer and warmer. I particularly like the lively music appeared in the film. The film worth watching more than once (actually I have watched it five times, feel still not enough) I have watched all movies directed by Takeshi Kitano who is my favorite). Scenes at the sea, Fireworks, Sonatine are also my favorites.

The best Japanese movie I ever watched. 9/10
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10/10
Wonderful movie. Best music ever?
mcj121 April 2004
Very sad story with very much hope, road movie but focused upon relations. Surprising, realistic and intense. I love this film, can see here that I'm not alone. Good story, very good acting. I will wonder the rest of my life about those people and how they get on. Can only add that the music was probably the best I ever heard played in a movie, composition and performance. Listen and learn Hollywood, your routinely played 'lots of violins' are dull, too much and most often misplaced. I read here on IMDB that the composer Joe Hisaishi had got a lot of rewards, I can say: no surprise to me.
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9/10
Sweetness & love in cold, rough characters
franarturduque22 November 2018
It amuses me how you get to see how annoyed the characters get when they are put in a situation to feel emotion.

It's a fun kind of discomfort that some how gets the funny side of a human nature by giving you inspiring human connections in touch with the magical mistery journey we're all walking through.
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10/10
Who's the child?
p.newhouse@talk21.com12 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A touching Japanese homage to 'The Wizard of Oz' (in the words of Director Takeshi Kitano), this is a comedic, and sometimes disturbing tale of growing up and growing down. Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano) is an immature, selfish, sullen man who takes and rarely gives. Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) is a young boy of maybe nine or ten, who has been left to live with his grandmother, and has to take things like an adult. When Masao decides to go visit his mother, his Grandmother's neighbour volunteers her boyfriend Kikujiro as escort. This is the tale of their journey, both spiritual and physical. Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy the ride! Joyous!
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On a road trip with Takeshi Kitano
RokurotaMakabe5 July 2011
This is the first film that Takeshi Kitano directed after the critically acclaimed "Hana-bi" and it represents a totally different approach from him. Perhaps he wanted to make a movie that didn't have the violent content that characterized his previous work, also trying to prove his versatility as an actor. The result is a film that manages to be funny and touching in the same time and it accomplishes that without relying on the clichés that are usually present in films of this kind.

Little boy Masao decides to go on a long trip in order to visit his mother whom he had never seen, but in order to do that he must be accompanied by an adult. He finds his companion in Kikujiro, a grumpy and loudmouthed middle-aged man who sometimes cannot avoid getting into trouble. They embark on a journey that is filled with adventures, adventures that manage to build a strong relationship between the two characters. Takeshi Kitano rose to fame as a comedian and this is a film where he fully displays his comedic skills. In spite of all his bad habits, Kikujiro is a likable character and that is the merit of Kitano, who proves once again that he is a talented actor. His directing is also precise and he makes great use of the wonderful score from Joe Hisaishi.

With "Kikujiro", Kitano started from a formula that you can also find in Hollywood movies (that of two very different people traveling together), but the final result doesn't look like anything from Hollywood. Kitano managed to make a highly original film by using his unique style and that really paid off in the end.

My rating: 8/10
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Kids
RainDogJr24 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Takeshi Kitano is a very well known name for me and I'm a big fan of his work however thinking in the subject I have seen only 3 films, 2 of them directed by him (Kids Return and Brother) and the other just with him as actor (Battle Royale). Then I have the world of Kitano still to discover and certainly I really liked those 3 films and now "Kikujiro" was not the exception.

It is one of the most unique yakuza films I have seen if you can consider it a yakuza film just because the character Kikujiro (Kitano) was a yakuza. He is a great and strange character, he can be a total a****** and a good friend and thanks to Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) we are going to watch both sides of Kikujiro. Masao is the protagonist of the film, a young boy who lives only with his grandmother, they used to be neighbours of Kikujiro and his wife. Summer arrives so school and other activities are over then Masao will be alone. His best friend is going out, everybody from his soccer practices is also on vacations and his grandmother works. But then Masao thinks again in his mother, who according to his grandmother is working far for him, and now he has an address. For Masao's fortune Kikujiro and his wife found him when some teenagers were robbing him just when he was going to see his mother. The wife of Kikujiro gave them money, she felt sorry for the young boy and now her husband is taking the young boy to see his mother. Here begins the unique journey.

"Kikujiro" is a very strange, touching, sad and funny film, certainly is hard to know what's next in the journey of Masao and Kikujiro and I just loved that. Just the journey started you watch them at the cycle track. Kikujiro is betting and at once Masao said to him the winner combination so they returned just to lose money, Masao never said another winner combination. If that wasn't enough to complicate the journey, Kikujiro's criminal actions will help to make things a little more complicated. A fine scene to can define Kikujiro is when they are inside a taxi, the taxi driver stops to pee or something but he doesn't stop the taximeter action that makes Kikujiro angry enough to steal the taxi, not a single minute after the taxi driver went outside, just to be without a car by the next morning. Things are more difficult for both Masao and Kikujiro after they are at a very expensive hotel, after that they are without any money trying to find someone who drives them to their destination, now Masao is seeing how strange is Kikujiro but also becoming a friend.

This unique journey have many moments I loved, one of them reminds me the Charles Chaplin short film "The Immigrant" (at a bus stop Kikujiro steals food from a man, both Kikujiro and Masao are very hungry but Kikujiro gives -apparently- all the food to the young boy and says so him something like "don't worry, adults must make sacrifices for the little ones". Then Kikujiro goes to the back of the bust stop to pee but he went there just to eat his part of the food!), some of them are extremely funny (Kikujiro trying to imitate a trick with oranges that a woman made, for example), some of them are difficult moments, moving moments, sad moments and magical moments. Happened what we could expect was going to happen with the mother of Masao (at one point we see how Masao and Kikujiro shared a similar situation, both were very close t their mothers but at the same time both were very far from them) but Kikujiro brings the magical moments, both are now there to really help the other and at one point Kikujiro will join other adults, that they and we meet before, and they will become kids and together with Masao they will share fun moments.

Finally, I loved this Kitano film, for me is a near masterpiece that can surprise you. Maybe your girlfriend doesn't liked the film Brother or the film Battle Royale but believe me, she will love this one.
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8/10
Kikujiro rules the roost
sc803127 June 2008
What a bittersweet, beautiful movie! Takeshi Kitano (who writes and directs) plays a deadbeat adult who agrees to take little Masao on a cross-country summer trip to meet his estranged mother. What ensues is tragic, comedic and very poignant. The cast of characters are all rather unique and fun to watch, and the interplay between Kitano's character and the young boy is both delightful and upsetting.

The film's events are divided up and introduced as events in Masao's summer diary. As he did in Hana-bi, Kitano uses his own artwork. Here his work is masquerading as the drawings done by Masao. The artwork is charming, colorful, unacademic yet unique.

The drawn-out quiet pacing and environmental resonance found in Kitano's Yakuza flicks are also found here, used to illustrate the absolutely pathetic state the characters (caused by Kitano's character) find themselves in. When there is music it is charming and melodic, if simple, and never grates or becomes too saccharine. Hee hee, it's funny though -- the main theme sounds a little bit like "Chariots of Fire". And what was up with that weird dream sequence???

I find Kitano's body of work to be pretty strong, and it's nice to see what a diverse entertainer and film-maker he is. This movie, Hana-bi and his recent Zatoichi incarnation are all such different movies, but they're all equally commendable. This one is pretty cool -- the first Kitano movie that usurps an adult film genre, though I would still say the message and pacing make it more appropriate for older viewers.
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7/10
A Nutshell Review: Kikujiro
DICK STEEL26 October 2006
The last Kitano Takeshi movie for the day, Kikujiro is very much unlike the previous two movies. If anyone would think that Takeshi is only famous for, and can make only violent movies, then this one would make you do an about turn. Even the narrative style is quite different from the limited few of his movies I've been exposed to. Being PG rated (Hana-Bi was NC16), the queue of those expected to watch this film was again snaking, even though most of the (free) tickets were already snapped up.

The story centers on the deep friendship which develops between a quirky, mean and uncouth middle-aged man, and a young boy. It doesn't start off rosy, as Kikujiro (played by Takeshi himself) gets assigned, against his wishes, chaperon duties to assist and ensure that the young boy Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) gets to find his mother. So begins a road trip of sorts, with the duo encountering a host of situations and characters (aren't road trips all like that?)

The movie can be seen as two distinct halves, with the first half in my opinion the more superior portion of the film. It centers upon the journey, on the quest to seek out Masao's mother in another county. We get to follow our mismatched duo through various escapades through their hitchhiking adventures, with one involving racing amongst cyclists (in a betting game), which is one of my favourite moments in the story. Everything else afterwards in this half is built up from that one incident, adding much to the comedic aspects that actually, although predictably, bring on some genuine laughs.

The second half is perhaps what disappoints, with its introduction of over the top characters in 2 biker gang type guys, and a farmer. Here, the sequence of events sticks out unconvincingly, even though it's possibly trying to tug at your heartstrings and bring back memories of the days of childhood, where you have adults engaging in children's games, just to keep the children entertained. The play acting with strangers take its toil as it wore on, and became a bit of a drag with repetitive childish scenes of play acting. Takeshi isn't adorable, try as he might, and some may cringe at his "act cute" moments. Somehow Yusuke Sekiguchi, who plays Masao, doesn't seem to act cute at all, and I thought it was kind of mirroring real life - imagine between a baby and an adult, who's the one playing the fool most of the time in their interactions with each other?

Nonetheless, Kikujiro is still an admirable story on friendship, amongst the unlikeliest of couples, with Kikujiro cutting a father like figure to Masao's little child. Come to think of it, it's like a road trip movie between father and son, and the braving of odds to cement some credible ties by the time the end credits come rolling.
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