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GOOD-AS-DEADFELLAS: THE FILMS OF TAKESHI KITANO

WATCHING “BEAT” TAKESHI KITANO’S sardonically oblique Sonatine, it’s easy to imagine his nickname coming from Elvis Costello’s “The Beat,” where the singer boasted: “I’ll do anything to confuse the enemy.” Kitano—who besides starring in the film also wrote, directed, and edited it—is master of subterfuge, and casual displacement. Sonatine surveys nihilism with a bemused gaze: it turns the gangster film into a still life with blood. Kitano lets the camera linger on figures and spaces, holding shots an extra second or two while his actors (taking their cue from his taciturn manner) move with a stylized awkwardness, as though going through the naturalistic motions under some kind of posthypnotic suggestion. And as violence periodically breaks out in Sonatine, the claustrophobic staging suggests a marionette theater of cruelty. When rival factions come face to face inside an elevator, a gun

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