The Sound of One Eye Blinking
Review by Ross Anthony

The film opens gently, introducing us to young Masao on the first day of his summer vacation. Other kids go out of town with their parents, but Masao is being raised by his working grandmother, so he has no one to play with. Sad and lonely, one day he sets out to visit the mother he's never known and who resides off in some distant city making money to support him.

A sympathetic neighbor-lady catching him on his way out assigns her do-nothing thug boyfriend (Kikujiro) to escort Masao on his travel. This entire set up is assembled nicely, capturing our interest and, of course, teasing us with the tasty premise of a small innocent boy, old beer-bellied thug pairing.

Kikujiro is fantastic. Expressing half of all his emotions though a single eye twitch-like blink staring blankly off of a rough, stone chiseled face. A rose on a grave. His stocky body and dispassionate demeanor make no attempts to hide a cave-cold rock-hardened heart. I love this character.

Wallet thickened with his girlfriend's funds, Kikujiro drags the poor boy to the racetrack. Though well shot this sequence lasts too long. In fact, that sentence sums the lead weights that drag this potentially buoyant production from high recommendations. By way of example ... Kikujiro walks across the sandy beach to a waiting Masao in one touching scene, but for an audience to watch a lead character walk 50 feet through the sand on a 100 foot wide shot - it's just asking too much.

Since the film is essentially a road trip (lots of hitchhiking), the gentle pace is inherent and previously established. These long drawn out shots try our patience, while several good sequences would be strengthened with just a few more beats cut from them. In the end, these delays dilute our sympathies.

One other note, a nudist occurrence appears nearer to the end (of the film). Americans may find this a bit troubling and even obscene, but if memory serves me, Japanese still enjoy communal bathing, in fact, an invite of a guest to bath with the family or children is really a warm extension of friendship. It is from this perspective, the character's (Baldy's) nudism ought be interpreted. (This is not to be confused with the sick old man's behavior in the park, earlier in the film.)

All in all, though too slow and too long for its own good, "Kikujiro" gives us a juicy character so rough to like that his description must have been written on sandpaper. Kikujiro stares at us with his one eye blinking, we should hate him, we want to hate him, but instead he endears us even more than a small child searching for his mother. That's acting and direction with depth, with grit, with boldness. Kikujiro is played by his writer/director Kitano.

  • Kikujiro. Copyright © 2000.
  • Starring Beat Takeshi (Kitano), Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Yuko Daike, Kazuko Yoshiyuiki, Beat Kiyoshi, Great Gidayu, Rakkyo Ide.
  • Written and Directed by Takeshi Kitano.
  • Produced by Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida a Sony Classics Release .


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:06:18 PDT