Hana-bi

After watching Takeshi Kitano’s disappointing Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen a few weeks ago I decided last night to watch this film which I knew is considered one of his best films.

And it turned out to be but everything, a most enjoyable and often funny film.

Actually, it was a strange mix of quite graphic violence mixed with touching drama, kind of a cross between Pulp Fiction and Terms of Endearment, but all in Japanese of course. Like Pulp Fiction the timeline jumped around a bit.

The story was very simple, basically about a police detective who had to retire after a shooting which killed one of his partners and injured two others, and he had to take care of his wife who had leukemia. Dialogue was at a minimum with Takeshi hardly speaking at all, instead relying on his deadpan face (Kitano lost all movement on the right side of his face in a scooter accident in 1994) except for a facial tick which was either intentional or not, but which was most effective. The story was ambiguous at times, leaving small details out so that the viewer had to figure them out. There were no close-up shots inserted of someone secretly picking something up or whatever, put there to spell things out for the audience…something I hate seeing in films.

There were many long takes of random things which did not have any meaning except to give the film a very calming effect. One shot had two guys discussing something, then they walked out of view and the camera was just looking at a wall for a few seconds.

One of the characters in the film, a cop who lost the use of his legs in the aforementioned shooting, started up painting abstract pictures such as the following…

There were several of them in the film, and as it turns out they were all painted by Kitano himself. Quite a guy.

Kitano had made several films before this one, but after this film won critical acclaim in Europe it was only then that he was taken seriously in Japan as a film-maker. From Wikipedia:

Kitano himself said it was not until he won the Golden Lion that he was accepted as a serious director in his native Japan; prior his films were looked at as just the hobby of a famous comedian.

An excellent film, well worth a watch, and it was interesting to see 1997 Japan (I arrived in Japan the next year).

Date watched: July 28th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 48

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