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

The Player

I last watched this 1992 film way back in 2008, having watched it one time before that.

Even though this is now the third time I have seen this I had forgotten most of the story and even who was in it apart from Tim Robbins. Along with Tim, the main cast included Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Brion James, Dean Stockwell, and a very funny Lyle Lovett.

There was also quite a cast of cameos, which unsurprisingly holds the record for the most in one film. It included people like Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Burt Reynolds, Leeza Gibbons, Jeff Goldblum, Jack Lemmon, Bruce Willis, Lily Tomlin, Harry Belafonte, and James Coburn. There were 40 in all, so it was fun spotting them all, with many were just in the background for a few seconds.

The story was pretty good, it never slowed down and there were no dull moments. Tim was most excellent in his role, and he was pretty much in every scene. There were plenty of references and in-jokes throughout the film, this website lists some of them.

So this is well worth a watch, especially for films buffs, although it would help if you are familiar with eighties and nineties actors, and films in general.

I may just watch it again some day.

Date watched: May 26th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 35

The Cable Guy

I was reminded of this film recently in a podcast I listen to called Movie Crush. I have seen this at least once before, but had forgotten a lot of it, so I went to a DVD rental place last night to get it out, along with some newer films.

This film came out in 1996, at a time when Jim was pretty much at the top of his nutty game. He received $20 million big ones to star in this, a new record at the time. A year earlier he was paid $10 million for Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Ben Stiller directed.

Compared to his earlier films, this one was a lot darker and at times pretty weird, probably too much so for some audiences. Rotten Tomatoes gives this a 53% rating which I think is a bit low as I enjoyed the mix of comedy with a stalker plot line.

Jim Carrey (Chris Farley was considered for the role) was what made the whole film work. There were some scenes which were obviously created by Jim, such as the nipple scene in the prison (which Carrey based on a scene in Midnight Cowboy).

Looking through Jimbo’s filmography I see that this is the last film he made before his films started to become a bit more sugar-coated. The next film he made was Liar Liar, and after that The Truman Show, both very different and not quite as good as far as I am concerned. But, has has made some memorable films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I Love You Phillip Morris (I must watch that again too).

Bob Odenkirk had a small role with one line…

This is not the best film Jim has ever made, but I thought it was still a pretty good laugh.

Date watched: February 24th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 19

Groundhog Day

I felt like a bit of Bill Murray, so returned to this film which I probably last watched over 20 years ago.

It was pretty much as I remembered, the basic story anyway, I had just forgotten the details. It is an entertaining watch but the whole premise of the film does start getting a little tired towards the end. Bill is funny but quite subdued compared to other films.

For some reason the ending was not as I remembered. I thought it ended with his groundhog day finally finishing, and instead his love interest in the film starting hers. This is not how it ended, but apparently it was in the original script, so perhaps I read it then it somehow morphed in my mind as being the actual ending. The mind is a malleable and tricky thing.

Bill, who seems to be a bit difficult at times, had a falling out with director Harold Ramis, and the two never worked together again.

Not bad, not great, but worth a watch again.

Date watched: December 30th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 146