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Astoria film museum to host Kitano retrospective

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Employing lyrical techniques, Kitano juxtaposes short outbursts of brutality with quiet scenes of quotidian life and moments of philosophical contemplation. Even when he abandons the underworld milieu in films like his romantic "A Scene At The Sea" (1991) or his stylized Bunraku drama "Dolls" (2002), the meditative director remains fascinated with two troubling extremes: life's fragile beauty and the inevitability of suffering and death. Kitano's films find a path to transcendence through an embrace of life and a struggle against its destructive tides.

This series was organized by Viola Rondeboom, film department intern. Special thanks to Julie Fontaine (Miramax), Office Kitano, and Palm Pictures.

Saturday, May 15

2 p.m. Preview Screening

Dolls

Palm Pictures, Japan, 2002, 114 mins. Directed by Takeshi Kitano. With Miho Kanno, Hidetoshi Nishijima. Kitano artfully presents three love stories in a form inspired by Bunraku puppet theater. Employing vibrant colors, fantastic costumes, and the inventive device of reversing the roles of puppets and puppeteers, Kitano captures the passion beneath the surface of the form.

4:30 p.m.

Sonatine

Japan, 1993, 94 mins. Directed by Kitano. With Takeshi Kitano. Like a short sonata, this brooding film about a granite-faced tough guy and his faction's refuge from internal clan war unfolds in three contrasting movements, revealing greater depths behind Kitano's seeming stoicism.

6:30 p.m.

Fireworks

Milestone Films, Japan, 1998, 103 mins. Directed by Kitano. With Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto. This visceral, poetic story about a policeman whose home and work lives are in turmoil was Kitano's international breakthrough. His syncopated rhythm of lingering moments punctured by violent sparks leads to the humbling realization that, like fireworks, life is fleeting, explosive, and beautiful.

Sunday, May 16

2 p.m.

Kids Return

1996, Japan, 107 mins. Directed by Kitano. With Ken Kaneko, Masanobu Ando. Kids Return, made after Kitano's near-fatal motorbike crash in 1995, takes his aesthetic preference of mood over plot, and journey over destination, to extremes. Following the rise and fall of a group of young delinquents and conformists, Kitano critiques modern Japan's obsessions with materialism and fast success.

4:30 p.m.

A Scene at the Sea

1991, Japan, 101 mins. With Maki Kuroudo and Hiroko Oshima. Kitano's first departure from the yakuza genre, this sensitive story of two deaf lovers is as gloomy and unsettling as his other films. A purely visual work, it conveys the natural cruelty of the people and the ocean, as the boy looks to surfing to transcend his handicap.

6:30 p.m.

Fireworks

Milestone Films, Japan, 1998, 103 mins. Directed by Kitano. With Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto.

Friday, May 21

7:30 p.m. Preview Screening

Zatoichi

2004, Miramax, 116 mins. Directed by Kitano. With Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Yui Natsukawa, Michiyo Ookusu. Taking on classical Japanese samurai tradition, Kitano blends ferocious sword fights, dazzling choreography, serene moments, and a modern score, in an aural and visual feast that redefines the iconic blind hero Zatôichi while paying homage to its late creator, Shintaro Katsu.

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