As a director, Takeshi Kitano has a reputation for making bloody yakuza dramas (Violent Cop, Sonatine), even though he regularly changes pace with more lyrically themed works.
Kikujiro finds him in playful mode, softening up both his own image as a film-maker and, as an actor, his lead character's gruff, intimidating exterior. Kitano clowns around as an ageing small-time gangster who reluctantly accompanies a nine-year-old boy (Sekiguchi) during a summer holiday search for the child's mother. Like Cinema Paradiso and Central Station before it, the film shows how these unlikely companions have much to teach each other from opposite sides of the generation gap.
It's a warm-hearted tale which would be more involving had Kitano taken the David Lynch route and embarked on a straight telling of a straight story, avoiding the tricksy visual interludes which only serve to disturb the movie's pace.