July 10, 2010

Hana-Bi (1997) by Takeshi Kitano

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susuma Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Production: Japan, 1997
Runtime: 103 Minutes

Welcome back to Film Focus tonight I’m going to review Hana-Bi (Fireworks), the seventh movie directed, edited and starring Takeshi Kitano with this movie and Sonatine (1993) he establish as one of the greatest Japanese director. The movie won the Golden Lion in the 1997 Venice Film Festival. This is going to be the last movie of Kitano I will review in this first season so enjoy.

The movie tells the story of Nishi (Takeshi Kitano) a violent and unpredictable police detective who decides to quit his job after a terrible incident in which, Horibe (Ben Osugi) a friend and partner resulted injured. After his retirement, his wife is diagnosed with terminal Leukemia, so Nishi decides to spend more time with her. In addition, they had lost a daughter some years ago, so both are deeply depress. Horibe, who is now in a wheelchair, finds out that his family (wife and daughter) left him, submerged in a very deep depression and lonely, he decides to paint but he fail to do it since he never have done it, but he discover he can used flowers to draw unrealistic and surreal paintings. Nishi had borrowed money from the Yakuza to pay for his wife´s medical treatment but now the mafia wants their money back, of course he refuses to do it. Therefore, the Yakuza decides to chase him down. With no money and the mafia after him, he decides to rob a bank, he use the money to go on one last trip with his wife since she would not live for a long time. Soon he finds himself between the Yakuzas, that want the money, and the police, that are after him because he robbed the bank. Since it’s Takeshi movie don’t expect an American happy ending.
Although this is an early stage of Kitano as a solid director, we can track down many characteristics that will be his trademarks in the future productions. We have the long takes, the sudden ruthless violence and the theatrical scenes were the characters appear still and starring to the horizon, as if they only move if they need to. I study theater and we are teach that the character we represent must have their actions aim at something (almost all the time to modify the other), you can’t just walk through the stage aimlessly. I don’t think there is another director that uses so well this theatrical technique.
This film in particular is fill with deep melancholic and tenderness atmosphere. In my opinion, Kitano is able to show the psychological state of the characters, you can almost know what they are thinking. One of the things to look after in all of his movies, especially in his early films is the minimalistic approach to life. Another thing to remark is that the main character hasn’t big dialogues, Nishi only speaks when he needs, his wife don’t have many lines (I think she only speak two times). Kitano as a movie editor is very particular, you may need to see this film twice, since there are many flashbacks and the story of Nishi and Horibe are interspersed, but again this is very characteristic in almost all of his movies.
Another thing to point out is that almost all the characters are screened with another character. The only character that appears to be alone is Horibe. I think in some way he could represent Takeshi Kitano, who had a motorcycle accident back in 1994 that left him with half of his face paralyzed (in Horibe´s case it was half of his body). As well as the character, Kitano started to paint surreal paintings shortly after the accident, actually Kitano himself painted the artwork showed throughout the movie. In the movie, Horibe tries to kill himself; again we can find something of Kitano in Horibe, as he referred to the incident as an “unconscious suicide attempt”. In the last scene, we see Nishi and his wife with a young girl who is flying a kite (the girl is Kitano´s real daughter). We can´t say if the girl is real or it’s a representation of their dead daughter but one thing is for sure that last scene is very sad. Death, suicide, violence and loneliness are themes that will follow Kitano throughout his movies.

Well that´s all for this review I´m done with Takeshi Kitano for this first season but the reviews aren’t over. The next movie to review is “Doubt” (2008) a very good movie. Leave a comment and don’t forget to score my review on the top. Have a good night everyone.
By Sebastian Nadilo

Trailer: Hana-Bi (1997)
Music: Hana-Bi main theme by Joe Hisaishi - Hana-Bi live (priceless) by Joe Hisaishi
Scene to see:

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