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A Scene at the Threshold: Liminality in the Films of Kitano Takeshi

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In Kitano Takeshi's Sonatine (1993), a fall moon hovers in the Okinawan sky over Murakami and his comrades as they seek refuge in an empty beach house from the gang war into which they have been unwillingly thrust.1 There they stay for a period of time, but curiously the shots we subsequently see of the moon evince no change: days have elapsed, but the moon is still as fall in the last shot as in the first. The critic Abe Kashô cites this as evidence that there is no flow of time in this space. It is a Utopia, a place where Murakami, played by Kitano himself, and his men can play and at the same time die. Murakami earlier admits that he is tired of the yakuza life. This and his blank expression, coupled with the fact that in the film's first tracking shots, his legs are, like those of a Japanese ghost, not visible, indicates for Abe, that in this film essentially about his march towards death, Murakami is already a ghost, already dead from the start. The Utopian space of play is equally the world of the dead, a fact which to Abe speaks volumes about Kitano's conception of death.
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Keywords: Kids Return; Kitano Takeshi; Sonatine; Tokyo; death; mundane

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Yokohama National University

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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