Cannes crowd-pleaser Kitano back with new work

Kitano Takeshi is best known in Japan as a comedian. But elsewhere, he's widely seen as a powerhouse of world cinema. Whatever he's doing, dark humor is a common thread, and it's on full show in his latest movie, which has just wowed the crowds at the Cannes Film Festival.

Samurai epic "Kubi" is Kitano's first work as a film director in six years. And the standing ovation he received at Tuesday's premiere suggests he's been missed.

The story is based on a real-life attempt to assassinate powerful Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga back in 1582. Kitano previously tackled the subject in a novel.

Kitano pictured with cast members on Tuesday.

The 76-year-old also acts in the movie, which was not screened as part of the festival's competition category.

Director enjoys audience's response

Kitano receives a standing ovation in Cannes.

"The audience laughed during scenes I didn't expect them to," said Kitano after the screening. "It was interesting. And now, I want to make a full-blown comedy."

Kitano told reporters he hopes the movie goes down just as well in Japan, where it'll hit big screens nationwide in November.

Award-winning body of work

Kitano is no stranger to the movie festival circuit. And ever since making his directorial debut with "Violent Cop" in 1989, he's earned a string of prestigious awards.

He has a special affinity with the Venice Film Festival. In 1997, he won the Golden Lion for "Hana-Bi". And six years later, he took the Silver Lion for Best Direction with "Zatoichi."

In 2016, Kitano was awarded France's highest order of merit, the Legion of Honor. And in 2022, he received the Golden Mulberry Lifetime Achievement Award at the Udine Far East Film Festival.

Prolific writer

Kitano is also a big name in print media, and he's been especially prolific as a writer during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I can't go drinking like before, so I'm drawing, playing piano and writing novels instead," he said to NHK in late 2020. "I'm writing a bunch of stories as if drinking tea."

"Thirty years ago, I used to think I should write something other novelists would acknowledge," he continued. "But now, I don't care about such expressions. I write in simple terms, like when I'm on stage as a comedian."