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SHERDOG MOVIE CLUB: Week 196 - Hana-Bi (1997)

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by europe1, Feb 5, 2020.

  1. europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    NOTE to NON-MEMBERS: Interested in joining the SHERDOG MOVIE CLUB? Shoot me a PM for more info!

    Here's a quick list of all movies watched by the SMC. Or if you prefer, here's a more detailed examination.

    [​IMG]
    Our Director
    Takeshi Kitano

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    Our Star
    Takeshi Kitano

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    Film Overview




    Premise: Nishi leaves the police in the face of harrowing personal and professional difficulties. Spiraling into depression, he makes questionable decisions.

    Budget: $2.3 million

    Box Office: Japanese!

    Trivia
    (courtesy of IMDB)

    * The paintings that appear throughout the movie were painted by Takeshi Kitano himself after his near-fatal motorcycle accident in August 1994.

    * The Japanese title translates into 'Fireworks", but if you look further into the basis of the Japanese character for 'fireworks', you will see that it is composed of two smaller words - 'fire' and 'flower'. And like the linguistic basis of the title, the story and style of "Hana-Bi" is the synthesis of two opposing images, one being an agent of destruction, and the other a symbol of birth and renewal.

    * Girl playing with kite, featured in the final scenes of the film is Takeshi Kitano's real-life daughter, Shoko Kitano.

    * Fireworks became the first Japanese film to be released in Korea since the end of World War II (1945). However, box office performance was worse than expected with only 37,771 tickets sold.

    * The man who sold he taxi cab had "Cactus Jack" t-shirt on. Cactus Jack is a professional wrestler known by his real name Mick Foley who wrestled in the 90's as Cactus Jack in International Wrestling Association of Japan.
    Members: @europe1 @MusterX @sweetviolenturg @FrontNakedChoke @chickenluver @Scott Parker 27 @Yotsuya @jei @LHWBelt @HARRISON_3 @Bubzeh @moreorless87 @HenryFlower @Zer

     
  2. chickenluver Bookmobile Driver

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    This was a nice movie. Never seen one exactly like it, although the closest comparison I can think of is the other Kitano directed movie I saw, Sonatine. Hana-bi was basically an arthouse drama disguised as a cop/yakuza movie. Or rather maybe it would be more accurate to say it's a fusion of those genres. Or maybe it's genre is cop/crime drama, yet it's style is arthouse drama, but now I'm just getting into silly semantics.

    The actual content is not that unusual for a cop drama. Tragic backstory, dying/dead or maimed partners and wife, getting mixed up with gangsters which of course leads to trouble, etc. But the placid style, static shots, and sparse use of dialogue was very arthouse in style. I'm learning that this is apparently the signature style of Kitano. I was amazed at how little Kitano's character spoke, as well as his wife. If I'm remembering correctly we don't hear Kitano speak until roughly the 25 min mark, and it's only one syllable conformations to someone on the phone. And I don't believe his wife speaks until the very end of the movie, only saying thank you and sorry.

    I really liked the way that the details of the police work at the start was never explored really at all. I was a little confused at first when the narrative jumped forward to the aftermath of the shoot out which left one of the cops dead, although I thought the film did a good job of revealing enough information to give you the essential details. I actually started to think we wouldn't see a full flashback scene of that event, and I almost think it wasn't necessary as by that point in the film we already had learned all the important details, including hearing from the other surviving cop that Kitano emptied his gun into the dead body.

    I really liked the whole series of scenes of the wheelchair bound man taking up painting and essentially having to build a new life after losing his career and family. The film acknowledged that even beyond the obvious need to find a creative outlet, it was also a matter of simply needing to find something to do to occupy his time. That bit about the paintings actually having been done by Kitano himself as he was recovering from a serious and debilitating accident is a very worthwhile piece of trivia. I wouldn't say it changes my feelings about what those scenes mean, but rather I know now that it was coming from a very personal place within Kitano. Interesting that in a movie where he himself plays the lead character it's a side character that is given those autobiographical traits. I'm not an expert on art, but I thought those paintings were quite nice in and of themselves.

    At first I got the impression that there was a wide emotional gap between Kitano and his wife, most likely caused by the death of their daughter, and his being unsure of how to behave towards her in consideration of her own imminent death, and that there wouldn't be any real happy scenes between them, but thankfully I was quite wrong about that. Perhaps that was true of them at first, as their first scene together in the hospital seemed to indicate. But I suppose the doctor was correct that it was best for her to be at home and live out he last days by spending time with her husband. Their scenes together were mundane yet rather charming.

    At the end there was no doubt in my mind that Kitano shot his wife and then himself, although I guess I can say that the way it was presented was deliberately ambiguous. When he put the two bullets in the gun I knew right away what was going to happen, although since you don't see it, there remains the possibility that he shot the two cops. Although really, firstly I think he would have put more than two bullets in the gun in case he doesn't get a perfect kill shot on both cops, secondly I don't see any reason that he would want to kill his cop friend, even to avoid going to jail, thirdly the way the girl seemed to be looking at the spot where they had been sitting indicated that it was them who had been shot, and fourthly and most importantly, what possible benefit would there be in killing the cops and escaping? The only result would be they go on the run and his wife dies soon after anyway, then Kitano would just be on the run by himself, plus he would have killed one of his friend in addition to another cop, which seems contrary to how Kitano behaves throughout the film.

    Quality movie overall. I've kind of struggled to get into Kitano's movies. As I mentioned in the voting thread I loved the US reruns of that super silly gameshow he hosted, and that was all I knew him from for years. I was quite surprised to recognize him in battle royale and even more surprised to learn that he was an acclaimed director. As seems to be the case with the world at large, this film was a good gateway for me to get into his work.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  3. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    The film had some good parts. It had a decent storyline of a former cop with some personal demons (dying wife and getting two of his fellow cops shot as a result of dying wife). He then kind of tries to move on. He robs a bank to pay off his debts and then takes his wife on vacations. His problems follow him though as the yakuza doesn't want to let him go and hes gotta kill a bunch of peeps in pretty cool ways. I liked the end too. That said I dont know if it was a translation issue or what but the dialogue didnt do it for me. At times it was like "you are a cop and I am yakuza so we must be enemies." That wasnt an exact quote but close enough lol. That kind of took me out of it a bit. 7/10 with some better dialogue could have def been better. Oh and I didnt care about the paralyzed guy at all some reason.
     
  4. moreorless87 Straba

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    I would say his earlier work was crime thriller/drama that gradually included more arty/meta elements to it but by the time of this film it was if anything the reverse, an artouse drama were the crime thriller elements provide a bit of subversion. The police/Yakuza plot is deliberately left underdevolped and I'd say is mostly there first to set things up and then to provide the out burst of brutal violence as an outlet to the built up drama.

    It does make me feel rather old than Kitano has dropped so much from cultural relevance, he was never exactly a household name in the west outside of the gameshow but was arguably the entomb of cool for a few years either side of the millennium. I spose you could argue it goes rather hand in hand with Japanese pop culture as a whole losing relevance in the west since then with anime not having the pull of the Ghibli/Kon releases or Akira, Ghost in the Shell, etc. You could say I spose part of that isn't just decline(honestly I'v not seen a Beat film since Zatoichi in 2003 so that's hard to know) but that the influence of his work has become so ubiquitous, Ryan Gosling's persona especially for stuff like Drive, Blade Runner and some of the comedy as well I think owes a lot to Takashi and the artier end of Korean cinema also I think owes a good deal to him.

    I'm not sure this is the best intro to his work as its playing up that style to the absolute max yet I think its really effective indeed, heartfelt drama that isn't afraid to poke a bit of fun at itself with various mischievous little moments. Its also pushing his acting to the limit in terms of near silence and only the most subtle of expression, the facial tick doing overtime. I would actually say his version of Zatoichi mentioned above is a pretty good starting point, not really trying to recreate the original much but a nice way to playup his oddball style.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2020
  5. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    So you're saying this is responsible for drive? Damn I need to drop my score, drive was such overrated trash that made people think Goslin can act.
     
  6. Zer Steel Belt

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    [​IMG]

    I never thought of the Kitano - Gosling connection but I see it now. Also a big fan of Gosling for the record
     
  7. moreorless87 Straba

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    You have always had subtle badass performances of course almost as long as such characters have existed but here I think theres more a feeling of a more childlike nature to the characters, maybe not as impish with Gosling as Kitano but films like Drive do seem to have quite a lot of similarity to his work.

    My point really was that he's almost been a victim of his own influence, a lot of what made him so unique in the 90's has been picked up on by western pop culture. Personally I still think a film like this offers something rather different but its perhaps not the strange attraction it was at that point.

    Beyond his own persona that kind of meta black comedy has really become a big feature of arthouse cinema pretty much everywhere, someone like Lathimos might have an obvious Kubrick influence in some ways but you can also I'd say trace pushing things that far partly back to the Japanese scene of this era.

    Going to be the last week for me for awhile, down in Patagonia for a fortnight on Thursday, discussions better have picked up by the time I return or its Warhole's Empire State on my next week.
     
  8. Bubzeh Silver Belt

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    Missed the last couple. Apologies. Been away on holiday.

    Just found a stream for this one and I'm hoping it's the right movie but it could very well be another Japanese one. Will be reviewing what I watch. Just hoping it's Hana-Bi!!!
     
  9. MusterX Titanium Belt

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    The way Nishi's partner Detective Horibe discusses his wife's cancer with the other men at the beginning and lays out how their child died is good info but its a bad way to present it. To quote my old English teacher, they were telling, not showing. His partner says oh it must be so hard on Nishi, first his daughter dies then his wife gets sick, and he's a cop. Well, ok, nice way to tell me all the important aspects of a character by simply reading it off a list. Its not a deal breaker but its also not good cinema most of the time.

    After Det. Horibe gets shot, while letting Nishi go to the hospital to see his wife, they are discussing it by the sea side with sad music as Horibe considers his life after being put in a wheelchair. Basically he says he has no family anymore because his wife left him and he's only ever known work, maybe he will try to be a painter but the supplies are expensive and he wouldn't know where to start, he says maybe he will buy a beret. I don't know if its a Japanese thing or what but the sentiment was basically, without work, a man is nothing.

    Art boy goes on to draw a bunch of art of animals with flower heads and Nishi decides to rob a bank because he owes Pride Fighting Championship a lot of money, excuse me, the Yakuza. It doesn't feel like a coherent plot to me. I understand what's going on, I just don't understand why its happening. Also, why do we need to watch Detective Horibe in so many scenes. This movie is not about Detective Horibe. That really is the problem though, this film isn't about any specific character. Even with Nishi we are supposed to care about his relationship with a dying wife but yet they only share a few lines of dialogue with each other. There is simply not enough interaction between the two to make me care what happens. I admit I did care somewhat, especially during the last scenes of the film.

    There is something to be said about the final 38 minutes of this film. We spend our time watching, mostly without dialogue, interactions between Nishi and his dying wife, although, she never shows any symptoms of dying, seems a weird oversight. It wasn't until I saw the piece of art that said, SNOW, LIGHT, SUICIDE, that I noticed a connection between the art and the story. I'm not sure how much of it is, I would have to go back and look more closely at the art but there does seem to be a connection there.

    If the art connection is accurate then can we assume that Nishi killed himself and his wife in a double suicide? It could be argued that the suicide art is because Detective Horibe tried to commit suicide. Does he kill the two cops or kill himself and his wife. Seems to me he killed himself and his wife mainly because 2 bullets seems like a suicide thing because if you are going to shoot two cops you better load more than 2 bullets just in case.

    ArtHouseThinker/10
     
  10. moreorless87 Straba

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    As I said I don't think its a Yakuza drama with some arthouse influence, its an arthouse film with some crime drama elements pushed into it.

    The film is really aiming for mostly scenes of low key atmosphere drama that the occasional moment of extreme violence(and the odd buit of meta humour like Horibes beret) breaks though. So plot elements are deliberately introduced in quite undramatic exposition in order to achieve that. Horibles art is meant as a reflection of Nashi's characters story, made most obvious by the suicide painting at the end.
     
  11. Bubzeh Silver Belt

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    Art house sounds a bit nerdy but it's definitely that. I struggled to get into it I'll be honest. Could be due to the fact I was watching on my phone. Which is a shit way of watching movies but that's the only way I could stream it.

    Somebody earlier mentioned Ryan Gosling and Drive? I thought that too and also the one where he didn't say much and got revenge... Only God Forgives? All similar vibes. For what it's worth I love Ryan but Drive and Only God Forgives imo are overrated / not my cup of tea.
     
  12. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    I just thought drive was trash honestly. I think I had heard the hype before I saw it though and sometimes that can be a problem.
     
  13. europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Everyone who is using "arthouse" to describe this movie should actually be using the words "Aki Kaurismäki but with violence". (and yes, this is a hipster artsy brag that I've watched Kaurismäki movies).:)

    Same placid pacing. Same focus on static-shoots and camera-cutting to convey action. Taciturn characters abound. Same homely and earnest approach towards finding happiness in the simple things and small moments of life.

    As mentioned, the only strong difference I felt was Takeshi's injection of violence. And honestly, oftentimes it felt like the most incongrious element of the film. The whole disparity between how calm the movie feels vs how bloody the action can get just seems off somehow. I suspect that if we were to have watched something like Violent Cop, then the handling of the bloodshed would have been more to my liking, more grimy and the filmaking more emotionally raw, which I feel is more approproate.

    There were definitively moments that I liked though. Like when he shoots the gansters in the car and the gun shifts between them. Or the early scene were all of his colleges get gunned down. But overall, I think Takeshi nailed the notes better in something like the Bank Robbery scene, where there is no violence and all you have is the tensity in peoples faces as they're watching him do it wordlessly. It seemed more in harmony with the film.

    I liked this movie... but I did really get the sensation that this was a movie that hit on the same wave-lenghts and style that Kaurismäki normally does, and I've seen movies off his that I thought were desicively better (most notably Ariel).
     
  14. moreorless87 Straba

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    Really to me the film almost feels like a reaction to his earlier career, maybe the result of the afore mentioned motorcycle crash. The violence I would say either tends towards either being shown in a very non pulpy fashion coming out of nowhere having prolonged negative consequences on Nashi and Horibe or its downplayed to a comic degree with the Yazkua debt plot and the bank robbery delt with in such an offhand fashion relative to the personal drama,
     
  15. FrontNakedChoke ____________________

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    [​IMG]
     
  16. europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Btw guys I need to delay the next threads one day I have a personal situation so I can't take care of it today.
     
  17. LHWBelt Gold Belt

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    No worries take care of your business man hope everything's good.
     
  18. MusterX Titanium Belt

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    [​IMG]
     
  19. FrontNakedChoke ____________________

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    IMPEACH!

    Hope everything is okay @europe1
     
  20. europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Thanks guys.

    Yeah. It was a family situation. But it was expected for a long time.

    There are Free Clinics in the US? Man I feel ripped off! My dad had to pay like 30 bucks the last time he visited the Doctors! That's probably the most expensive health care in the world!;)
     

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