Netflix unveiled this Thursday, December 9 the original film “Asakusa Kid”, dedicated to the youth of Japanese director Takeshi Kitano.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ?
Before breaking through, Takeshi Kitano learned the ropes from the humor genius Fukami. But as his notoriety grows, that of his mentor falters.
WHO IS IT WITH?
Prolific television director, Hitori Gekidan signs his second feature film with Asakusa Kid (after A Bolt from the Blue in 2014). The filmmaker himself signed the script for the film, directly adapted from the autobiographical novel by Takeshi Kitano (available from Le Serpent à plumes).
In the role of Takeshi Kitano, we find the Japanese actor Yūya Yagira. A true prodigy of Japanese cinema, the latter won in 2004 at the age of only fourteen the Interpretation Award at the Cannes Film Festival for the film Nobody Knows by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Most recently, he was in the cast of the two live-action adaptations of the manga Gintama.
Yo Oizumi, for his part, lends his features to the comedian Senzaburo Fukami. Active in the dubbing (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Boy and the Beast …), the latter has also appeared in many films adapted from successful manga, such as I am a Hero (in the main role ), Fullmetal Alchemist or Tokyo Ghoul.
DOES IT DESERVE A LOOK?
Among the greatest directors of Japanese cinema, Takeshi Kitano is the very definition of the multi-faceted artist; A filmmaker awarded by the most prestigious festivals in the world, he is also a comedian, imitator, variety show host, writer, painter, and political columnist. A real saltimbique coupled with a hyperactive creative, whose youth is today the subject of a biographical film on Netflix: Asakusa Kid.
The feature film directed by Hitori Gekida (see above) is an adaptation of the eponymous novel written by Kitano in 1998. In this biographical work, the filmmaker looks back on his beginnings as an elevator boy in a cabaret in the popular district of ‘Asakusa in the heart of Tokyo. Thrown on stage overnight to replace a sick actor at short notice, Kitano explains in his novel how the comedy bug came to him, from his first experiences to the success of the duo he formed with his accomplice Nirō Kaneko: The Two Beats.
If the film does retrace the youth of Takeshi Kitano, however, do not expect to learn anecdotes on the genesis of his most famous films, you might be disappointed! Entirely devoted to the young years of the future filmmaker, Asakusa Kid draws in parallel the disillusioned portrait of the end of an era (the popular cabarets of Tokyo) and the arrival of television, heralding a new form of humor (of which Kitano will be one of the spearheads at the beginning 1980s).
In the role of Kitano, Yūya Yagira delivers an unconvincing performance, with a desire far too strong to reproduce the character’s tics: his interpretation thus often falls into caricature. Add to this an unclear physical resemblance to the filmmaker, which obviously does not help the young actor to bring credibility to his interpretation.
We could also blame the film for an excess of classism. Taking up all the codes of the biopic without daring to transgress them, Asakusa Kid adapts Takeshi Kitano’s novel to the screen without, however, capturing its melancholy and allegorical essence. The feature film faithfully follows the story of the characters, but fails to immerse us in this bygone era that nevertheless formed the heart of the story in Kitano’s book.
So, even if we don’t really have a bad time watching this feature film, we can only regret thatAsakusa Kid could not have been more faithful to the extravagant personality of Takeshi Kitano. The film is still more successful than the first adaptation of the novel by Makoto Shinozaki in 2002.