Takeshi Kitano was pretty much the first Japanese live-action director I came into contact with. It was the late 90s and he'd just started to make a name for himself (internationally that is). While most of his films were easy enough to track down, there was one film that turned out to be a heftier challenge. Getting Any? [Minna-yatteruka!] is not your typical Kitano film and so I was quite looking forward to see if it still held up after all this time. It's been years since I last watched it and wasn't quite certain if it would still hold the same appeal.
Comedy has been an essential part of Kitano's cinema from the very beginning, even so he hasn't directed many straight-up comedies. It's always been a means to balance out the crime and/or drama aspects of his films. Getting Any? is the clear exception to the rule. Absolutely everything is played out for laughs here, with hardly any plot to speak of. Don't expect character progression, don't expect any emotional depth or a sensible and logical finale. Getting Any? is Kitano at his most erratic and absurd.
Even for a comedy it's all pretty chaotic. The start of the film feels more like a collection of themed sketches, after that Kitano moves to more episodic plotlines, ending up with a finale that is completely detached from the rest of the film. The comedy itself is all over the place too. At times it borders on slapstick, some of the jokes are ultra dry, others are absurd and over the top and to top it all off, Kitano sneaks in some parody bits. Even so, if you've watched some of Kitano's other films it shouldn't feel too unfamiliar, the biggest difference here is that the comedy itself is quite a bit more concentrated.
The plot of the film is extremely simple. Asao is somewhat of a goofy loser who wants to get laid. Sitting in his small apartment, he comes up with several (often absurd or nonsensical) ways to get some female attention. Of course none of his efforts turn out to be very successful, but it takes him along an interesting journey where he goes to increasingly greater lengths to reach his goal. From buying a car to taking up acting lessons, from a life of crime to enrolling in scientific experiments, nothing is too farfetched for Asao.
Since Getting Any? is one of Kitano's earlier films and a thoroughbred comedy, the visual aspect of the film clearly wasn't his primary concern. Even so Kitano's typical style of editing is already abundantly present and a big driver of the comedy. That means lots of before and after shots (cutting out the actual events) and frozen, often showing stunned characters suffering the consequences. The special effects and props are pretty cheap and low-key, the colors are a bit dim and the camera work is functional but rarely aesthetic. Even so, for a comedy it's definitely good enough.
The soundtrack and score on the other hand are extremely forgettable. There are some terribly cheesy tunes and some classic Japanese pop songs, but unless I'm missing out on some cultural references here it's all just background noise that acts as sensory filler. It's not too big of an issue because again, this is a core comedy, but for someone whose collaborations with Joe Hisaishi are legendary the fact that the soundtrack appears to be little more than an afterthought is somewhat of a disappointment.
Luckily the cast is top notch. Some Kitano regulars are present in smaller parts (Ren Osugi and Susumu Terajima most notably) and of course Kitano himself takes on a rather remarkable role as a wicked scientist, but ultimately this film is Dankan's moment of glory. His deadpan expressions and dry delivery are what gels everything together. As silly and nonsensical as this film may be, his character somehow survives the stupidity of it all and gives validity to what is an incredibly banal plot driver. That is quite an accomplishment.
People have compared this film to the work of Monty Python. While there are plenty of differences and reasons to keep the two apart, it should give you a good idea of what to expect in terms of plot, randomness and core focus on comedy. If you're used to more traditional comedies that weave in a story and care about characters and whatnot, Getting Any? might not really be the film for you. If on the other hand you appreciate Kitano's trademark sense of humor and you can cope with the looseness of it all, this one might be a winner.
Getting Any? will forever be the odd one out in Kitano's oeuvre. It's probably the film that lies closest to Kitano's TV persona and its appeal may be quite niche, but there's a lot of fun to be had with this one. If you take the silly premise for granted, there's actually a rather large variety of comedy on display here and even though not every joke will hit, a lot of them do. It's not one of Kitano's absolutely best, but it might just be the most entertaining film he directed so far.