By Kwan Weng Kin
TOKYO: Japan's multi-talented film-maker Takeshi Kitano recently received France's highest artistic award, but it may be some time yet before he is similarly decorated by his own country.
At a ceremony in Paris earlier this month, the French government made Kitano a Commander of Arts and Letters for achievements in multiple art forms.
Kitano, 63, is internationally known for making gangster movies, thought-provoking dark comedies and also some rather bizarre and violent cult movies such as the 2000 Battle Royale, in which a group of teenagers are randomly chosen to kill one another on a deserted island.
The critically acclaimed 1997 work, Hana-Bi (Fireworks), established Kitano as one of Japan's greatest modern film-makers. His films are being screened for three months in the French capital.
He was surprised to find that the French are also familiar with his work as a comedian. In 1994, after a motorcycle accident, he took up painting and some of his paintings are also on show in Paris.
'Although I am known for doing all kinds of silly things, I'm glad the French people think of me as having all kinds of talent,' he said.
But at home, he is better known as TV personality and comedian Beat Takeshi, rather than as a high priest of the fine arts.
Kitano won huge success in the 1980s playing a leading role in the long-running comedy show Oretachi Hyokin-zoku (We Are The Funny Tribe) and hosting the cult game show Takeshi's Castle, which features slapstick-style physical contests.
He still appears regularly on TV, where he lampoons the institutions and big names of the day with his barbed wit.
But as he jokingly pointed out on returning from Paris, the Japanese government has yet to give him the same recognition as the French.
'My next goal is to win a Japanese Cultural Award and also be dubbed a national living treasure,' said the deadpan Kitano.
'My dream is to get arrested for bilking a restaurant after becoming a national living treasure,' he added for good measure.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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