Takeshi Kitano kills again at 76th Cannes Film Festival

vulture.com -- May 24

Takeshi Kitano's Kubi is one peculiar movie, a frantic, blood-drenched, star-studded historical epic that has more beheadings per minute than most feature films.

It also features disemboweling, spearing, beatings, torture, and poisonings, and at one point one dude forces another to eat a pastry off his sword before kissing him lustily on his bleeding mouth. It’s pretty special.

The Honnō-ji Incident, the violent 1582 ambush of the powerful warlord Oda Nobunaga (Ryo Kase) by one of his own generals, Akechi Mitsuhide (Hidetoshi Nishijima), is a historical event that has inspired a number of works, with many speculating about the reasons for Mitsuhide’s betrayal of Nobunaga. In Kitano’s retelling, it had at least something to do with the fact that Mitsuhide and Nobunaga were lovers and that Mitsuhide also had a thing going on with Araki Murashige (Ken’ichi Endô), another outcast general who had turned on Nobunaga. In Kubi, sexual desire isn’t the main reason for the treachery, but it does supercharge it: Who actually cares for whom and who’s merely using whom merely for sex are questions on the characters’ minds.

The double- and triple-crosses among Nobunaga’s generals — don’t worry if you can’t keep track of everything, as the sheer density of treachery up and down the class order is kind of the point here — are enough to make your head spin. In this, these warlords perhaps reflect their own master’s sadism, as Nobunaga is abusive, loud, and cruel, the kind of leader who will scream at his retainers to kill themselves (and each other) as a test of their loyalty. (Ryo Kase plays him as a whirlwind of spite and glee, frothing with rage one minute, childishly delighting in others’ humiliation, death, and ruin the next.) But there’s also a free-for-all underway to inherit Nobunaga’s power, because he refuses to cede it to his idiot sons. The broad uprising against him comes not from a sense of noble resistance against a petty, vindictive, unstable leader, but rather a chance to rise above everyone else. ...continue reading