Kitano Takeshi. London: British Film Institute, 2007, 272 pp., with photos. £16.99 (paper)

This is a brilliant book on a mercurial subject. Takeshi Kitano is an actor and film director, ubiquitous on television as well, who has become a media event. His persona has splintered and he stands Janus-faced over Japanese entertainment. He has two names (Beat Takeshi and Takeshi Kitano), is both a clown and a sage, a radical renegade and a conservative artist, a raggle-taggle TV comic and a maker of admired art-films. Protean, shape-shifting, he seems to defy description.

Accomplishing this, finding the pattern in the welter, is the task that Aaron Gerow, film critic for The Daily Yomiuri and assistant professor of Japanese cinema at Yale University, has taken upon himself, and most elegantly accomplished.

Gerow hypothesizes a necessary duality. There are not only two names for the same person, there are also two Takeshis. "One is the auteur in the traditional sense who produces a recognizable, possibly evolving text over his career; the other is a trickster who repeatedly undermines expectations and defines himself by changing style and thematics from film to film."