I lied about the sketches being comedic. Truth be told, Takeshi Kitano’s 2007 film Glory to the Filmmaker! is not remotely funny. It is an uncharacteristically awful misfire from a director whose films are usually exceptional. Unlike Kitano’s more popular films, like Kikujiro, Outrage, or Hana-Bi, Glory to the Filmmaker! never received an Australian theatrical release. Having now sat through it, it is easy to understand why. It feels like an act of commercial and creative suicide. The film forms part of a loose trilogy of films directed by Kitano between 2005 and 2008. I have not seen the other two films, Takeshis’ (2005) or Achilles and the Tortoise (2008), although neither received a particularly enthused critical reception. I cannot say I am rushing to watch them, given how awful this middle instalment appears to be.
There is something insanely self-indulgent about Glory to the Filmmaker. Clearly it all amused Kitano enough for him to spend the time writing, directing and starring in it. I am honestly at a loss to understand who else would. Close to every joke falls flat on its face. Some of them feel strikingly out-of-date; a tired Matrix parody immediately comes to mind, produced eight years after anybody would have found such a scene relevant or timely. Others simply fail to land: an intended riff on Yasujiro Ozu runs out without a single decent laugh to be had. Sketch comedy is a hard thing to stretch to feature length at the best of times; when the results aren’t funny, it becomes something utterly interminable.
In the film’s second half it gets even worse. One would think settling down to a single extended sequence might improve matters, but a generic science fiction parody soon runs weirdly off the rails and becomes a deeply unfunny comedy about a middle-aged woman attempting to set her daughter up on dates.
Kitano appears throughout the film in his usual deadpan fashion, however it becomes immediately apparent just how much his sparse, near-emotionless screen persona is reliant on the material around him. In a well-developed and thoughtful comedy like Kikujiro the “Beat” Takeshi delivery seems masterful. Here is just seems vacant and bored. A supporting cast of actors all over-act horribly too; it seems as if no one took this film seriously at all.
Kitano obsessives might appreciate seeing their favourite director operate in a closer milieu to his early career comedy work, but it is a hell of a slog in order to claim one has seen all of the man’s films. This really does feel like one obscure feature that would best serve Kitano’s international reputation by staying buried.