Film #82: Hana-bi (1997)

vlcsnap-2013-03-10-16h53m24s127aka: はなび, 花火, Fireworks
director: Takeshi Kitano (北野武)
language: Japanese
length: 98 minutes
watched on: 23 April 2013

I’d seen this film being advertised a lot before I decided to buy it. That was quite a long time ago, because it’s one of the films that have been sitting in my DVD case untouched for over a year. I had an excuse: my computer last year wouldn’t play DVDs! But I never really figured out what the film was about until I watched it, because the blurb on the DVD case and most descriptions I’ve read on the internet were pretty vague. And for that matter, it wasn’t nearly as “ultra-violent” as a lot of the reviews made out.

So it’s about a cop, played by Beat Takeshi, who also directed the film. He retires when his wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness and goes off the rails a bit. He travels to the countryside with his wife to enjoy her last days, and is chased by yakuza mobsters. Unfortunately, it’s genuinely difficult to get much more specific than that, as a lot of details are left vague in the film. Some of the film is played in anachronic order, and although some of that is straight flashback, it can be difficult sometimes to remember what point of the story you’re at.

In general, it was good… but Takeshi hardly speaks during the film – he only seems to have a few lines at all – and the film spends a long time navel-gazing, with a lot of shots being held for a long time with not much happening. This is to be expected from Kitano, but I think I’m coming to realise that I’m not such a fan personally of this style, even though Kitano makes it work quite well.

I’m glad I watched it, though, in general. There is a lot of dark humour in there, if you’re in that kind of mood, and the film does contain a lot of beautiful imagery as well as its famous violence. I realised after watching this that it’s actually only the third Kitano movie that I’ve watched – to be honest, I thought it was more, but I guess I was mistaken. I guess that means that I’m still trying to work out what his style is actually like, to some extent.

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