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Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) DVD Region 2

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Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

After Takeshis' and Glory to the Filmmaker, acclaimed filmmaker Kitano Takeshi completes his idiosyncratic trilogy on artistic rumination and creative crisis with Achilles and Tortoise. More accessible and audience-friendly than his previous two essays, Achilles and the Tortoise is told in three acts, following the art and adventures of an ardent, but middling artist at different stages in his navel-gazing life. Mocking art while making it, Kitano himself painted the film's colorful artwork which delightfully parody the protagonist and modern art. Taking the film's title from Zeno's Achilles and Tortoise paradox positing that the fastest runner can never overtake the slowest, Kitano creates a fascinating character study full of offbeat humor, wry commentary, and self-absorbed reflection.

The son of a wealthy businessman, Machisu (Yoshioka Reo) discovers his passion, or perhaps obsession, for art at a young age. After his father's bankruptcy and suicide, Machisu has to move in with his unwelcoming rural relatives, but that doesn't deter him from painting. In his teenage years, Machisu (Yanagi Yurei) engages in various off-the-wall artistic pursuits at art school, and meets his soulmate Sachiko (Aso Kumiko, Suite Dreams). In middle age, Machisu (Kitano Takeshi) and wife Sachiko (Higuchi Kanako, Memories of Tomorrow) stalwartly continue to chase after their lifelong passion and dreams. But at this point, one thing has become painfully clear: Machisu has no talent.

This edition comes with making of, interview, and previews.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (英文字幕) (日本版) Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (英文字幕) (日本版) アキレスと亀 Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Artist Name(s): Aso Kumiko | Higuchi Kanako | Osugi Ren | Ibu Masato | Nakao Akira | Tsutsui Mariko | Enjoji Aya | Omori Nao | Tokunaga Eri 麻生久美子 | 樋口可南子 | 大杉漣 | 伊武雅刀 | Nakao Akira | 筒井 麻理子 | Enjoji Aya | 大森南朋 | 德永繪里 麻生久美子 | 樋口可南子 | 大杉涟 | 伊武雅刀 | Nakao Akira | 筒井 麻理子 | Enjoji Aya | 大森南朋 | 德永绘里 麻生久美子 | 樋口可南子 | 柳憂怜 | オオスギレン | 伊武雅刀 | 中尾彬 | ツツイ マリコ | 円城寺あや | 吉岡澪皇 | 大森南朋 | 徳永えり Aso Kumiko | Higuchi Kanako | Osugi Ren | Ibu Masato | Nakao Akira | Tsutsui Mariko | Enjoji Aya | Omori Nao | Tokunaga Eri
Director: Kitano Takeshi 北野武 北野武 北野武 Kitano Takeshi
Release Date: 2009-02-20
Publisher Product Code: BCBJ-3430
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English, Japanese
Place of Origin: Japan
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Disc Format(s): DVD
Region Code: 2 - Japan, Europe, South Africa, Greenland and the Middle East (including Egypt) What is it?
Other Information: DVD
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1013081481

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

February 9, 2009

The concluding chapter of the self reflective trilogy that Japanese icon Takeshi Kitano began with Takeshis' and continued with Glory to the Filmmaker, it is hard to imagine Achilles and the Tortoise being more different than the films that came before. While both Takeshis' and Glory were shot through with manic energy and featured Kitano playing some distorted version of himself, Achilles is a far more sedate and quiet film, one that follows a conventional structure, following a single character through the course of his life, and is concerned more with the creative impulse than with any sort of self representation. If Takeshis' was an attempt to break new stylistic ground while satirizing the media monster Kitano himself had become and Glory was a deliberate throwback to the comedic madness of Getting Any, then Achilles draws more on the meditative side of Kitano, the side responsible for films such as Dolls and A Scene At The Sea.

Achilles and the Tortoise is the story of Machisu. A young boy when we first meet him, Machisu's father is a wealthy businessman largely responsible for the financial well being of his entire town. Machisu's father is also a largely ignorant but very passionate lover of modern art, a passion he indulges by buying large quantities of paintings of questionable worth - paintings foisted off on him by an unscrupulous art dealer fully aware that his wealthy client will never have any idea whether what he's buying is any good or not. When Machisu shows that he has inherited his father's love of art he is encouraged to indulge that particular love, given free rein to pursue painting and drawing above all else. Unfortunately, Machisu has also inherited lack of skill and taste.

Tragedy strikes and Machisu is left an orphan but he never abandons his all-consuming love of art, constantly sketching and drawing and painting, sinking whatever money he makes into supplies and lessons, constantly pursuing his goal of become a recognized painter. But he never really does. The son of Machisu's father's art dealer proves no help, disparaging Machisu's early work as being too old fashioned and constantly suggesting that he become more daring, more experimental, more whatever the buzz word of the day may be - suggestions that Machisu follows slavishly without ever making any progress. He ages, marries, has a daughter, but never makes any progress whatsoever when it comes to infiltrating the art world.

With the title taken from Zeno's Paradox - a famous mathematical proof that it is impossible to catch anything you may pursue, regardless of how much faster than it you may be, a proof that eventually led directly to the creation of calculus - the question of the film is whether Machisu's artistic career is destined to fail because he lacks talent or if he is destined to fail because he pursues success as defined by other people's opinions rather than simply following his own feelings and inclinations? Kitano is clearly aiming for the second option with the entire film standing as a comment on the absurdity of commercialized art.

Achilles and the Tortoise is a quiet, meditative bit of work from Kitano, the humor - it is frequently very funny - drawing more quiet smiles than outright laughs. It is elegantly constructed and well acted, a film that would have drawn much more attention had it come at the beginning of this self reflective cycle of films rather than at the end. Though certainly not A-list Kitano it is a huge step forward from the mostly disastrous Glory to the Filmmaker and a very positive sign for what is to come.

Notable here are two key points: first, all of the paintings in the film are the creations of Kitano himself. In addition to being a prominent writer, director, actor and television personality in his native Japan, Kitano has become a fairly prolific painter in recent years, one of his paintings previously featured prominently in cult hit Battle Royale. And, second, this is definitely the end of Kitano's self-reflective period - he has already announced that his next film will be a samurai picture - though not Zatoichi 2 - and that he is closing the book on this phase of his film career.

by Todd Brown -

Editor's Pick of "Achilles and the Tortoise (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

Picked By Sanwei
See all this editor's picks

June 1, 2009

Splashing paint onto film
Achilles and the Tortoise is without a doubt the most accessible entry in Kitano Takeshi's head-scratching, navel-gazing, self-reflective, self-deprecating trilogy of films. It is also the entry that is least obviously about him. For one thing, unlike Takeshis' and Glory to the Filmmaker, Achilles and the Tortoise does not star Kitano as himself. And there are no man-sized mannequins of him, either. After Glory to the Filmmaker! crossed the line of eccentric into esoteric (or worse, boring), Achilles takes Kitano back to something resembling a narrative with the intriguing character study of an untalented artist from childhood to middle age.

Achilles and the Tortoise captures the life of Machisu in three acts, with Kitano essaying him in the final segment. The childhood of Machisu feels like the backstory of someone destined for greatness, a tragic misunderstood genius. Pulled from riches to rags in a series of tragedies, odd young orphan Machisu (Yoshioka Reo) keeps on painting through the family deaths, chance encounters, and lonely days with mean relatives. This first act is presented in almost hilariously solemn manner, with simple camerawork and a somber, handsome palette that hark back to old-time family dramas. This Ozu-like world is, however, distractingly splattered with young Machisu's colorful paintings which jump off the screen in sharp lines and bright Crayola hues.

The myth of Machisu (Yanagi Yurei) begins to unravel in youth when he fails to sell his work to a gallery, and gets roundly criticized. He enters art school and experiments with different forms of wacky modern art with his wackier buddies, but he only knows how to observe and imitate, not create. His dogged desire to seek approval at every stage of his artistic life results in an increasingly gaudy parade of technicolor paint splashes ranging from abstract and impressionist to Andy Warhol knockoffs. The only person who thinks Machisu's art is any good is his poor wife-to-be Sachiko (Aso Kumiko). In middle age, Machisu (Kitano Takeshi) is still going at it, but both his life and his work have become tragic caricatures, laughably pathetic and preposterous. Even though his one-minded pursuit of art and approval is destroying his life and family, he is unable to stop, and eventually takes it to a mad extreme.

Achilles and the Tortoise may not be a work of genius, but it does show that what separates madness from genius is talent, something that Kitano has in spades. Kitano paints Machisu's lifelong artistic crisis in a wry, dry, tragicomic manner that doesn't quite elicit outright laughter, but rather maintains a tone of bemusement throughout the film. The character of Machisu is cut in Kitano's typically opaque, pokerfaced fashion, a stark contrast to his passionate pursuit of art and his unnaturally bright paintings which are so ugly they're almost beautiful. Machisu's artwork are a sight to behold, and they get notorious pride of place in the film, as the color treatment, art design, and cinematography all work to highlight Machisu's colorful paintings from his uncolorful life and personality. Apparently, Kitano himself painted the garish art in the film, adding an additional layer of winking parody to this work of artistic self-indulgence that mocks artistic self-indulgence.

Considering his unlikely journey from the comedian host of that wacky game show where people do stupid things to world-famous filmmaker, Kitano Takeshi is a director who has earned the right to mock himself in a self-indulgent logic-defying arthouse trilogy. And love them or hate them, all three films are worth a watch. Still, even arthouse audiences run out of patience after a while, so it's good that Kitano is (supposedly, hopefully) ending his creative-crisis creations with this one. And it's better that he's ending it with the most visually compelling, narratively engaging, and consistently amusing film of the trilogy.

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