Kitano takes oddball look at world of art

Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:50am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - Japanese cult director Takeshi Kitano turns his oddball gaze on what he calls the "cruel" world of art and art collecting in his latest movie, which has its premiere at the Venice film festival on Thursday.

"Achilles and the Tortoise" confronts the fundamental questions of what art really is and whether it has any true value beyond what it means to its creator.

In doing so, it mocks the art market, with an unscrupulous dealer passing off a child's work as that of a master and a gallery owner pontificating on the merits of a series of works.

The comedy, one of three Japanese entries in the 21-film competition in Venice, follows the life of Machisu, from a boy absorbed in his painting to a young man experimenting boldly with new techniques and ending with the middle aged artist, played by Kitano himself.

Machisu's devotion to art has comic and tragic consequences.

He becomes disillusioned as he tries to copy the styles of past masters, but in striving for something truly original he pushes the boundaries of bad taste and flirts with disaster.

Machisu also alienates those around him with the exception of his long-suffering wife, played by Kanako Higuchi, the only character who understands his obsession.

"In the movie I chose a painter as the main character," the softly-spoken 61-year-old director told reporters.   Continued...

<p>Japanese director Takeshi Kitano waves during a photocall at the Venice Film Festival August 28, 2008. "Akires to kame" (Achilles and the Tortoise) movie by Japan director Kitano is shown in competition at the Venice Film Festival. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>