william gibson on 'beat' takeshi
I recently mentioned one of my favorite Bad Movies, Johnny Mnemonic, which featured cult Japanese actor 'Beat" Takeshi Kitano in a prominent role as a villanous but honorable businessman. Here's a Time Asia article on the stoic Japanese actor by none other than famed cyberpunk author (and Johnny Menemonic screenwriter) William Gibson.
Where, I now wonder, did I find this character, this hard, immaculate man with his hidden inner wound? I had not, at that time, seen any yakuza films, although I was aware of the genre by some species of pop-culture osmosis. And I had sensed that the roots of that genre would somehow be tangled in a rich mulch of American westerns and gangster films. I was somehow aware of the character as a re-importation. As a friend likes to say, there's often something in a good translation that can't quite be captured in the original. But where did my tough and tragic yakuza boss come from?
He came, somehow, from the films of Takeshi Kitano, which I had not yet seen. He arrived as the crystalline, free-floating essence of an idea or stance. He owed everything to "Beat" Takeshi, a Japanese pop figure of such unstintingly multitalented eclecticism that the West has no equivalent, nobody even close. ("They only want you to be the one thing," Mick Jagger once told me, speaking of his own acting career.) Writer, producer, director, actor, television personality, comedian—but I knew nothing of that as I wrote. Nor could I know that Takeshi, whose gravitas would one day tug at the film with the pull of a black hole, was said to be both a very great actor and the most famous man in Japan. Both of which, now I know, were and are true.
Toughness has been rather out of fashion as a masculine virtue, but Takeshi simultaneously radiates it and suggests its wounded core. There can, in fact, be no depiction of genuine toughness (not brutality but a sort of excess of substance, of soul-stuff) without this concomitant indication of that wound, else the piece become simply the [pr0nography] of fascism.
Takeshi is simultaneously tougher and more wounded than you or I will ever be. Given the ever deeper and more precise reach of the spectral hand of marketing, I suspect that he's tougher and more wounded than any Hollywood star is ever likely to be allowed to be.
(via Destroy All Monsters)