Monday, 21 February 2011

Personal Favourites: Hana-bi


Many will recognise Takeshi Kitano as the teacher from 2000’s Battle Royale (another great film). However his skills in the director’s chair have failed to be appreciated overseas. Hana-bi follows the tragic story of police detective Nishi, played by Kitano himself. He has suffered the recent loss of his infant daughter and cares for his wife, Miyuki, who has Leukaemia. He owes money to the local Yakuza, and is burdened with guilt for causing his friend’s crippling accident, which results in Nishi’s retirement. Takeshi Kitano’s ability to portray the complexities and frailties of Nishi is astonishing. The sudden shifts from his emotionless and quiet exterior, to a brutal, hard-boiled individual are breathtaking and shocking. 
From a director’s point of view, Hana-bi is very minimalist but expressive. Dialogue takes a back seat, with there being a greater emphasis on visual story-telling. The romantic relationship between Nishi and his wife, has a ‘silent film’ quality, with the two rarely engaging in discussion. However, it is through their physical, almost child-like, interactions that we really get a sense of their love. The use of expansive shots of the Japanese landscape interspersed with Kitano’s personal artwork create a sense of lyrical ‘poetry’. Furthermore, Joe Hisaishi’s score complements the cinematography superbly, putting real emotion into each scene. 
Hana-bi is a subtle yet powerfully moving film. Takeshi Kitano proves that there is more to Japanese cinema than samurai and cutesy animated creatures. Brilliantly acted and magnificently directed, a true gem. 

Check out my other 'Personal Favourites' in the Features section.

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