Kikujiro – Beauty of a Failed Journey

A few days back, we were blessed enough to watch the lovely Japanese film Kikujiro (1999).

As if writing and directing this jewel was not a generous enough gift to viewers, Takeshi Kitano also donned the greasepaint for a key role in the film.

Even if you’ve not seen Kikujiro, surely you are aware of it because the thieving Indian bastards pinched one memorable scene from this film.

Remember Ranbir Kapoor and his co-star placing a nail on the road in Barfi, sending a passing car sliding down an embankment and then the two running like mad?

Kid, that was a straight lift from Kikujiro.

As we now sadly know, that was only one of many scenes stolen from different movies and cobbled together as Barfi.

Unusual Journey

Kikujiro centers around an atypical journey.

Of a young boy Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) and a retired gangster (Takeshi Kitano) hitchhiking from Tokyo to distant Toyohashi to meet the kid’s mother in a far off town and their encounters with a motley set of characters en route.

Young Masao, a cute young kid, lives with his grandma in Tokyo. Masao’s father is long dead and his mother, whom the boy can’t remember, lives far away.

Feeling lonely during the vacation, Masao heads off to see his mother after stumbling upon her address. Seeing him traveling alone to a distant place alone, his neighbor insists her husband (Takeshi Kitano) accompany the boy.

Thus the stage is set for one of the most interesting, colorful, touching journeys ever depicted on celluloid.

Like a lot of great movies, Kikujiro is many things.

It’s a fine comedy punctuated by displays of man at his bestial worst with an ample serving of love and a pinch of tragedy.

What’s not to like of such an amalgam!

Each of the characters in the film, be it the kid, the retired gangster, the poet, the bikers, the child molester or the young couple, is an offbeat, unusual personality, certainly not part of the herd.

Together, this colorful group delivers extraordinary magic on the screen.

Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack adds to the beauty of Kikujiro, more than doubling the charm of the film.

The best track, and the most acclaimed, is, of course, Summer.

Kikujiro is rich proof that sometimes in life the journey is more important than reaching the destination.

Timeless Gem

Kikujiro is one of those rare movies that will never age.

As long as people watch movies, discerning viewers will rejoice in the wonder that is Kikujiro.

Many decades after SI and this blog’s readers no longer walk this land and are but faint memories, Kikujiro will continue to enthrall viewers. enthusiastically recommends Kikujiro to lovers of good cinema.

12 Responses to "Kikujiro – Beauty of a Failed Journey"

  1. mihi_rex   March 7, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Great film, indeed!

    I understand that you are not ardent about animated films but can you please check out some of Hayao Miyazaki’s films (all scored by Joe Hisaishi, by the way)? Responds:

    I watched Miyazaki’s Spirited Away a few years back.

    Sweetie, for you I will watch and write about Ponyo soon.

    • vjcool   March 20, 2013 at 2:10 am

      Ponyo though good will leave you dissatisfied like Spirited away, try Totoro .. its lyrical and great..and the product of a young Miyazaki.. you can feel a leisure confident pace. and go for the older movies for greater impact and uncluttered story telling. Responds:

      Will do.

  2. Vinith   March 7, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Are you going to watch Mysskin’s Nandalala as well?

    I heard it’s a shameless copy of Kukujiro. Responds:

    After tasting Godiva and Swiss chocolates, would I like to eat camarcut (cheap teeth-destroying candy in Tamil Nadu)????

  3. zarboan   March 7, 2013 at 10:45 am

    off topic:
    take a look at the above link,now nokia too wants Samsung out of US ,i wonder what’s this drowning Finnish mobile company trying to achieve by this,may be they are hoping to sell few more lumia phones in US by taking out the competition. Responds:

    But Nokia is in bed with Microsoft, isn’t it?

    Strange, indeed!

    This patent process has gotten messed up completely…companies get patents for all kinds of frivolous stuff like one-click shopping etc ultimately driving up prices for consumers.

    As one of the commenters on Verge (original source for your Telegraph piece) put it:

    Of course Nokia sides with Apple on this.
    Nokia is nothing more than Microsoft’s little b****
    And we all know that Microsoft and Apple are in bed together when it comes to bullshit patents.

    The only thing that worries me is that Nokia actually has patents on technology they developed, and even Apple (after the usual douchebaggery) is paying them royalties for.

  4. Sisri   March 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    how did you watch it?

    Is it on Netflix instant streaming? Responds:

    Kikujiro is on Netflix DVD but NOT on streaming.

    Watched Intouchables finally (RedBox DVD, long wait on Netflix). Remarkable!

  5. venbas   March 13, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Good to know that you guys liked Kikujiro. So you dont need to delete my account for leading you to this Japanese diamond from Takeshi Kitano :).

    By the way I will still request you to watch Nandhalala. The “adaptation” for most part is tastefully done except for some melodrama surrounding the heroine (who makes a late entry thankfully), the rest of movie is eminently watchable. Responds:

    1. Thanks for Kikujiro.

    I haven’t seen such a gem in eons.

    2. Nandhalala, let’s see if we can get the DVD here.

    • Madmax673   March 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Looks like Mysskin had given writing credits to Takeshi Kitano (as per wiki). But not sure if he compensated the writer. Responds:

      But the chutiya Mysskin has denied the Nandalala story owes credit to Kikujiro.

      Nandalala is not Kikujiro. You can tell me this after you see the film.


  6. Madmax673   March 13, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    I saw that.

    Looks like in Nandalala, one of the leads portray a mentally challenged person as opposed to a retired gangster (as I see in your review) which is a major component change which I assume would be supported with its relevant set-pieces. I haven’t watched the movie despite my friends pursuing me to watch it as I couldn’t find a DVD.

    There are certain things that can’t be protected as far U.S Copyright law goes.

    For example, when I was watching “Face/off” there was a dude who went like “ithellam naanga Aaasai Mugathilaye paathutom” (Same concept like 1965 M.G.R. starrer “Aasai Mugam” which is in Netflix, btw ;)) I think the similarity exists merely on the level of a paradigm “koodu vittu koodu paithal” (‘body switching’).

    I read your review of ‘Ghajini’. I wonder if any Hollywood producer saw this movie!? Obviously some might have. After all, the remake had “Aamir Khan” in it.

    If they did, they could really sue them for infringement. Just like AMPAS threatened to sue Ravichandran’s ass to change his production company name (AASCAR) and its logo.

    I bet our people have loopholes to cover their hind ends up simply because they could simply argue that their movie is purely a ‘musical (genre)’ which is a whole horse of another color. I think this is one of the major reasons that our movies are being watched only by our Diasporas.

    Same with ‘Deiva Thirumagal’. Btw, I saw your 13 comparisons. One of my friends told me that Vikram also skids and falls trying to imitate Sean Penn. Is that true? If so, you could make it 14. Just thought he was a bit exaggerating. 😀

    I hated ‘Panchathanthiram’. ‘Thenali’ was so-so.

    But I liked ‘Avvai Shanmugi’. The only similarity that I found with ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ is about man faking his ID like a woman to be with his kid. But what actually sells that movie is the sub-plot of Gemini Ganesan falling in love with Avvai Shanmugi and Manivannan falling in love with ‘Kambar Kannagi’ 😉 Also, Mrs. Doubtfire had too much drama to it. But Avvai Shanmugi is purely a comedy. The dramatic element doesn’t affect us emotionally as it does in Mrs. Doubtfire. Responds:

    1. I’ve heard from reliable Indian sources that Hollywood is not keeping quiet lately and that they’ve been suing Bollywood producers (over content theft) forcing them to cough up money.

    2. Ghajini was an egregious instance of theft by Indians.

    3. On Vikram skidding and falling in Deiva Thirumagal, I can’t remember now. Thenali is a straight, hideous lift of What About Bob!

    4. Do minor changes in the ripped-off movies help Indian producers stave off legal challenges from Hollywood? I don’t know the answer!

    • Madmax673   March 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      SI: Ghajini was an egregious instance of theft by Indians.

      Let us set aside the fact that the movie was stolen. Did you think the movie was good in any level of development!? I hated even the pic. of the song “suttum vizhi sudarae”. Aallum, avan keppa kaalum, avan komali costumeum (He and his clownish costumes).

      Murugadoss is a classic example of “bit adicchu fail aana case” (failure despite meticulous malpractice).

      But they raked up shit load of money though. 🙁

      But the movie sucked!

      Here is another instance of how clueless Kollywood producers are — Producer Salem A. Chandrasekaran demanded compensation out of the Hindi version as he owned rights to the “original” version of Ghajini.

      SI: Do minor changes in the ripped-off movies help Indian producers stave off legal challenges from Hollywood?

      There are some cases here as well. Spielberg & co. faced a law suit for this film Disturbia (2007) from people who owned rights to a short story by Cornell Woolrich (“It had to be murder” that inspired Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”). But it didn’t work as Spielberg is a powerful guy who has his say in most of the things.

      Spielberg is so powerful that even writers don’t have original creative freedom. If he tells a writer “throw in a bunch of unicorns” (no matter what the story is), the writer has no choice rather than to go like “how many unicorns, boss!”. Had Oren Peli voiced over his disagreements in the ending of “Paranormal Activity” (which was Spielberg’s choice), his career would’ve been doomed.

      I heard even Avatar had a law suit.

      Mel Gibson’s “Apacalypto” — straight lift from “The Naked Prey”. Not only the plot but some set-pieces as well. But unfortunately, neither the production company nor the writers of the original version are alive (Mel Gibson duly deserves where he is right now)

      Speed (1994) — “The Bullet Train” (Japanese 1975) Responds:

      I was horrified to see Steven Spielberg (currently in India) lavishing praise on 3 Idiots!

      Spielberg on Amitabh Bachchan – “He’s not only legendary in India, his legend has carried all the way to America.”

      Come on, let’s get real here. Nobody, nobody in America knows Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Mamooty or any of our Indian stars.

      Amitabh’s role in The Great Gatsby is insignificant. Even in the book, the Jew is a very minor character!

      The rich, famous and successful are not impervious to the siren call of mouthing BS when it suits their purpose.


      • zarboan   March 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

        Mel Gibson won Oscar for both best director and best actor for the movie “Brave heart”.

        Do you know of any other who won multiple academy awards for the same movie??? Responds:

        Sweetie, I know five dozen others. 😉

        • zarboan   March 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

          Sorry,actually there’s an error in my question, Mel Gibson won Oscars for best director and best picture not “best actor” , and it looks like (from the link you provided above) there’s no person who won both best actor and another academy award for different category in the same year.


          Several in the list.

    • vjcool   March 20, 2013 at 1:53 am

      the Manivannan kamal lovestory of Avvaishanmugi is a straight lift from Dustin hoffman’s “Tootsie”

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