#10: When it comes to feature filmmaking with a sizable budget ponied up by international investors, we should probably welcome "self-indulgence" more than we do. Isn't it a subversive, anti-establishment move, squandering other people's capital on your own harebrained scheme? No, even critics tend to come down on the side of discipline and restraint. (As a corrective to this tendency, Stuart Klawans' book Film Follies is invaluable.) But over in the 16mm or Super-8 avant-garde ghetto, there isn't as much concern about self-indulgence. "Self-expression," it's called, and the concept of indulgence is trotted out only in two instances. (1) A filmmaker so egregiously mishandles the medium, or fails to evince adequate historical consciousness about her / his project's antecedents. (2) The person lobbing the term doesn't like the film in question, and needs a stopgap while groping for a better, more precise pejorative.

Takeshi Kitano's Takeshis' is a self-portrait. This is a minor subgenre within experimental cinema, although even there, the more typical practice is to create a film-portrait of someone else. Still, I think one reason so many viewers have rejected Takeshis' is that, according to the rules of our star-culture, it's in poor taste. Why should one of the most overexposed personalities in world media subject us to a journey to the center of his navel, or better yet, his semi-articulate riff on Jonze and Kaufman's "Malkovich Malkovich" sequence, Beat crawling up his own (rear) portal?

But wait. Just how powerful is Kitano in the global scheme of things? While Takeshis' stages the man's usual yakuza gunplay for the umpteenth iteration (its tediousness here telling of the auteur's own misgivings), he begins his experiment in self-portraiture by staring down the barrel of a Yankee rifle, a fully colonized subject. Is this disingenuous? Perhaps a little, but the point is clear: American cinema, just like the actor's own star persona, always has the upper-hand, and Takeshis' is the disorganized diary of a man on the run. And, if the celebrity's guarantee of value is his uniqueness, how long until the market is saturated, with a Takeshi behind every 7-Eleven counter? ("Oh no, another Laurie Anderson clone.") This film is no hidden-Elvis fantasy of living the quiet life. It's a study in the will to disappear. Forget 8 1/2; this is Kitano's Meshes of the Afternoon.