EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES: Beat Takeshi has been called the Jerry Lewis of Japan, but that barely scratches the surface of the scope and impact of the work produced by Takeshi Kitano, arguably the largest single producer of Japanese popular culture.

Media Mix Takeshi is an actor, a stand-up comic, a film auteur, painter, and author. He currently appears in eight weekly television shows, including a talk show, music show, science program, a supernatural phenomenon program, art program, TV debate on current issues, slapstick comedy, and a program introducing foreign TV shows. Imagine if Oprah Winfrey were genetically grafted to Woody Allen with a little bit of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, sprinkled on top. The resulting creature might be nearly as popular and prolific as Takeshi.

Takeshi got his start in the early '70s, performing a slapstick style of comedy called manzai then popular in Tokyo strip clubs. He and his partner went by the name Tsuu Biito, or "Two Beats," and a nickname was born. In the '80s, Beat Takeshi made the jump to television, where he achieved fame in a show whose title translates, unoriginally enough, We Are Wild and Crazy Guys.

In the '80s he also landed his first dramatic role in Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Though he's been a dramatic actor for years, often playing silent men capable of great violence, Takeshi has always been considered a funnyman in Japan; only through persistent effort has he begun to be taken seriously at home. He's directed seven acclaimed films, including Fireworks, which won the Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Film Festival and cemented his reputation as a director.

Fireworks concerns a policeman turned criminal, and it alternates a sense of pervading calm with bursts of unusually brutal violence. Takeshi stars in Fireworks, which he also wrote and edited. All of the paintings included in the film were made by Takeshi, too. The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., presents an eyeful of this prolific force of nature this week with the Tucson premiere of Fireworks, showing Thursday through Sunday, October 15 through 18, with an additional show on Friday, October 23. Call 622-2262 for more information.

SALAMUN READING: Slovene poet Tomaz Salamun's long-awaited Tucson debut finally comes to fruition this week. Family illness, civil conflict and violence in his native Yugoslavia proved insurmountable obstacles over the past decade, preventing local audiences from hearing his often playful poetry, marked even by a bit of the absurd, presented live. "We are delighted and honored at long last to bring this important poet to Tucson audiences," says Poetry Center Director Alison Deming.

Salamun reads English translations (his own, and those of Charles Simic and Bob Perelman) from Selected Poems and The Four Questions of Melancholy at
8 p.m. Wednesday, October 21, in the Modern Languages Building auditorium, on the UA mall west of Cherry Avenue. Admission is free. Call 321-7760 for information.

For author information on this and upcoming readings, check out the UA Poetry Center website, www.coh.arizona.edu /poetry/.

INK SPOTS: Local literati can celebrate the written word with booksignings a few paces off the beaten path, starting this weekend with Tucson native, author and journalist G.J. Sagi, who'll share his expertise with a signing of Small Game Hunting in Arizona from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, October 17, at the Cashbox, a jewelry and pawn shop located at 2014 S. Craycroft Road. Call Sam at 790-7404 for more information.

You can get the skinny on Keith Snyder's latest stiff at a signing and discussion of his second mystery, Coffin's Got the Dead Guy on the Inside, from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, October 15, at Clues Unlimited, 123 S. Eastbourne. For details, call 326-8533.

And next Thursday, October 22, desert dwellers can take a vicarious trip to a vanishing land with Jane Bay, author of Precious Jewels of Tibet: A Journey to the Roof of the World, which received favorable reviews in the New York Times. Bay will give a photographic presentation, discussion and booksigning from 7 to
9 p.m., at a location still to be announced. Call the Arizona Friends of Tibet at 885-6527 for information and directions. TW

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