Just rewatched Beat Takeshi’s Boiling Point (1990) after not seeing it for like fifteen years. It’s a lot funnier than I remember, I don’t think part of me got Takeshi’s deadpan ironic humour, or that his films are more like Coen Brother’s style comedies than arthouse films, which they often get labelled as.
I don’t think I would necessarily say that the humour is Japanese, as you might say about British or French cinema. Often people say, as with alot of European or Scandinavian films and TV, you need to understand their culture to ‘get it’. But there’s something about Takeshi’s films that resembles the slapstick and offbeat humour in French New Wave cinema and also classic Hollywood cinema like Chaplin and Keaton.
For example, a dinner party is repeatedly interrupted by a gangster smashing bottles over another man’s head and then sitting. Or when a disgraced boss spends several scenes trying bully his friend into chopping off his finger, and then orders his guests to hold him down and find something heavy to complete the task. In another scene, Takeshi carries a machine gun wrapped in exotic flowers which accidentally blows a hole in the ceiling at the office where he intends to kill his boss.
All of these shenanigans and vulgarisms seem to happen randomly over petty disagreements after one ex-Yakuza boss embarrasses another Yakuza. Clearly this Takeshi’s attempt to satirise and ridicule the absurd mucho behaviour and loyalties of the Yakuza criminals. Funnily enough, it was released the same year as Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and it makes me wonder whether Takeshi has watched it before directing Boiling Point.
It also resembles the silent action, violence and slapstick of the Coen films Miller’s Crossing, Fargo and No Country for Old Men, and Jim Jarmusch’s alienated characters from Stranger Than Paradise and Dead Man.
The strangest scene was the ending, in which the young boy, who seems indifferent and often stares into space, commits suicide by taking his revenge on the rival boss. Then it cuts to an earlier scene in which the boy stares into camera, sitting in the dark, pulls up his trousers and then exits the room to continue playing baseball. At first, I couldn’t think what this could possibly mean, was this some sort Japanese metaphor that I couldn’t understand? Arguably, it’s simply meant to show the isolation and frustration of this idiot savant, who simply wants to play baseball and obtain some respect from his friends and the Yakuza who torment him.