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Achilles and the Tortoise

7.0
921
Ratings
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Original title
Achilles to Kame (Achilles and the Tortoise)
Year
Running time
120 min.
Country
Japan Japan
Director
Screenwriter
Takeshi Kitano
Music
Yuki Kajiura
Cinematography
Katsumi Yanagishima
Cast
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Producer
Office Kitano / Bandai Visual Company
Genre
Drama. Comedy | Black Comedy. Comedy-Drama. Painting
Synopsis / Plot
The final installment in an iconoclastic trilogy on creative destruction, Achilles and the Tortoise is Takeshi Kitano's newest reflection on art and life. Unlike the author's previous works Takeshis' and Glory to the Filmmaker! – both of which were highly conceptual ruminations on the vocation and philosophy of filmmaking – this latest effort carries a more open, audience-friendly message.

The film takes its title from a famous paradox by the pre-Socratic philosopher Zeno, which claimed that motion, time and change are nothing but illusions. Achilles and the Tortoise tackles the idea that art is a chimera, and follows the absurd, star-crossed life of a man with no talent. As a result of his father's love of modern Western art, Machisu (Reo Yoshioka), a quiet, introverted child, is inspired to become a painter himself. Obsessive and obstinate – yet talentless – the child devotes all of his time to painting, not even losing heart when his father, once a wealthy factory owner, goes bankrupt and commits suicide.

As a young adult, Machisu (Yurei Yanag) continues to find comfort in his mediocre art and in the company of a group of fellow students with whom he shares the unrealistic dream of becoming famous. With banal results, he mimics all of the fashionable trends, from pop art to abstract expressionism, and struggles through life in a crescendo of crazy irrationality. Machisu (now played by Beat Takeshi himself), his stubborn lack of talent persisting into adulthood, eventually spirals into disturbed, upsetting behaviour.

Sophisticated and original, Achilles and the Tortoise features a rich procession of paintings by Kitano. Though designed to represent the failure of an amateur artist, these works are actually quite fascinating. Furnishing an elegant subtext to the film's smooth narrative texture, the pictures write Machisu's emotional history, filling in his many silences. Tinted with unusual chromatic choices – sepia fading around the coloured paintings of his childhood, psychedelic acrylic shades portraying his youth – the film skilfully embeds high-art meditations in a relatively simple storyline. It offers a perfect theorem, destined to outpace Zeno's paradox and restore reality to art. (From tiff08.ca)
Awards
2008: Venice Film Festival: Nominated for Golden Lion (Best Film)
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