tkOne of the films in competition at Venice this week is the newest effort from Japanese Renaissance man TakeshiKitano. The film, called Takeshis, is about a famous TV personality who encounters his double, a grocery clerk. Over the course of the film - which Kitano insists is "not about me" - the two men (both, of course, played by Kitano himself) infiltrate one another's lives, even appearing in the dreams of the other.

Americans who know Kitano only as one of the hosts of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (called Takeshi's Castle in Japan) cannot possibly imagine his status in Japan. Wildly popular as an actor, director, comedian, artist and TV personality, Kitano has in the past hosted or starred in as many as three weekly TV shows simultaneously. At the same time that he is a massive pop culture figure, though, Kitano makes incredible, delicate films that make virtually no money and are by turns shockingly violent, deeply touching, and vividly artistic. His subject matter ranges from the yakuza to childhood and everything in between, and the only thing it's safe to assume about his films is that they will be surprising. His last work in competition at Venice, Zatoichi, won him the best director award in 2003, and early word on Takeshis is promising as well.