Kikujiro (Kikujirō no Natsu (菊次郎の夏, literally "Kikujirō's Summer")) is a 1999 Japanese film starring, written, and directed by Takeshi Kitano. Its score was composed by Joe Hisaishi. The film was entered into the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. This movie was remade in Tamil as Nandalala.
Kikujiro tells the story of a young boy searching for his mother during his summer vacation. The film is mostly divided into smaller chapters, listed as entries in the boy's summer vacation diary. Kitano's inspiration for the character (not the film) was his own father, Kikujiro Kitano, a gambler who struggled to feed his family and pay the rent.
Similar to his earlier works Getting Any?, and A Scene at the Sea, Kitano references the yakuza only tangentially in Kikujiro, a departure from his work in famous crime dramas such as Sonatine and Hana-bi. Aimed at the whole family, the film was allegedly inspired by The Wizard of Oz with the basic premise being a road trip. Kitano's familiar elements and locales are present: drawings, vignettes, the seaside, and angels. Although the plot is composed largely of sad events, the film often has a light-hearted atmosphere, achieved mostly through Kitano's character and his somewhat bizarre encounters.
Masao, who lives alone with his grandmother in an old Shitamachi area of Tokyo, receives a package, and in looking for a seal finds a photo of his long lost mother. He finds her address in Toyohashi, several hundred miles to the west. Leaving home to see his mother, he meets his grandmother's neighbors, Kikujiro and his wife. Kikujiro's wife forces Kikujiro to accompany Masao on a journey to see his mother, telling Masao's grandmother that they are going to the beach.
At the start of their journey, Kikujiro is not serious about reaching Toyohashi. He gets absorbed in track cycling races and gambles away their winnings. Later, left outside a yakitori restaurant, Masao encounters a molester. After a narrow escape, Kikujiro promises to keep to the journey and take Masao to his mother. When the taxi Kikujiro steals breaks down, they are forced to hitchhike to Toyohashi, meeting various people along the way. They get lifts from a juggler and her boyfriend on a date, and a travelling poet who delivers them to Toyohashi. When they finally reach the address of Masao's mother, Kikujiro finds her living as a housewife with another man and their daughter. Masao's mother lives a completely different life from what he expected. It is almost as if she has forgotten him. Kikujiro tells Masao that she has just moved away, pretending not to have seen her. He tries to comfort Masao with a small blue angel bullied from two bikers whom he happens to come across.
Masao is so disappointed that Kikujiro cannot help but try to brighten up their return trip to Tokyo. He tells him an angel will come at the sound of the bell.
They visit a summer matsuri held in a local Shinto shrine. While Kikujiro gets into trouble with some yakuza over a fixed shooting game, Masao dreams of dancing Tengu.
Back on the road, they meet the poet and the two bikers again. They decide to camp a few days together. Masao enjoys playing some traditional games with them.
Kikujiro is reminded of his own mother (it is implied that she, like Masao's mother, also left him as a child). Kikujiro gets one of the bikers to take him from their camp to his mother's nursing home in Daito-cho, a small country town, but he eventually decides not to see her and returns to the camp.
The men continue to do their best to entertain Masao by larking about for a few more days. Before they are to return to Tokyo, Masao dreams about them appearing over the Milky Way. In the morning, the bikers say goodbye to them and leave the camp. Masao and Kikujiro get a lift in the poet's car to Tokyo. After dropping them off at a bridge, the poet continues on his way to Osaka and Kyūshū.
Before Masao and Kikujiro part, Kikujiro says "Let's do it again sometime" and Masao thanks him. Kikujiro tells Masao to take care of his grandma. Masao asks Kikujiro's name and Kikujiro answers "Kikujiro! Now scram!". Masao passes a small bridge with the Angel bell ringing.
The film explores alienation and inclusion in Japanese society. The main characters, and those who help them along the way, are all considered outcasts from accepted social norms, not being part of a traditional family or group structure. Characters who maintain a more accepted lifestyle are frequently at odds with the protagonists.
Early in the film, the protagonists react to their alienation with anger (Kikujiro) and sadness (Masao). Along their journey, they start to discover how alike they are and the events in Toyohashi act as a turning point from which the characters begin to find comfort in their shared isolation.Beat Takeshi - Kikujiro Takeda
Kayoko Kishimoto - Kikujiro's Wife
Yusuke Sekiguchi - Masao Sugiyama
Yūko Daike - Satoko Sugiyama
Kazuko Yoshiyuki - Masao's Grandmother
Beat Kiyoshi -Man at the bus stop
Rakkyo Ide - Biker
Nezumi Imamura - Travelling Man
Fumie Hosokawa - Juggler
Akaji Maro - Scary Man
Daigaku Sekine - Yakuza Boss
The album includes "Summer", one of the most famous compositions by Hisaishi; it was also re-arranged and used for Toyota Corolla commercials, for instance. These recordings can be found in his album Curved Music II.
Cello (solo) – Yumiko Morooka
Composed by – Joe Hisaishi
Executive producer – Emmanuel Chamboredon, Russell Ziecker
Violin (solo) – Rieko Suzuki
- "Summer" − 6:26
- "Going Out" − 1:17
- "Mad Summer" − 2:55
- "Night Mare" − 1:49
- "Kindness" − 1:57
- "The Rain" − 5:38
- "Real Eyes" − 3:16
- "Angel Bell" − 3:12
- "Two Hearts" − 2:01
- "Mother" − 2:13
- "River Side" − 6:13
- "Summer Road" − 3:08
The film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave at the movie 59% positive reviews.
Film director Makoto Shinozaki made a documentary of the making of Kikujiro entitled Jam Session (Jamu sesshon Kikujirō no natsu kōshiki kaizokuban). It was produced and distributed by Office Kitano and was screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival and other festivals.