Takeshi Kitano knows how to cause a stir. Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, the 76-year-old comedian and filmmaker introduces himself as “Johnny Kitano-gawa” — punning on the name of the late pop mogul and serial sex predator.
It’s a flash of the disruptive wit that helped turn Kitano into a household name in 1970s Japan, when he trampled the boundaries of popular taste in Two Beat, his manzai stand-up comedy duo with Niro Kaneko. Adopting the name “Beat” Takeshi, he gained a reputation for satirical, pitch-black humor; a typical routine might mix jokes about country bumpkins, child abuse and cannibalism.
Kitano may now be an elder statesman within the Japanese entertainment world — as well as an internationally feted director and actor — but he hasn’t lost his talent for provocation. In the new film “Kubi,” his first feature in six years, he takes aim at the costume drama industrial complex, typified by public broadcaster NHK’s venerable taiga dramas.