Pooja’s Movie Recco: Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-bi (1997)

By Pooja Channe

Film: Hana-bi 
Language: Japanese
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Actors: Takeshi Kitano, Ren Ohsugi, Susumu Terajima and Kayoko Kishimoto

Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-bi (fireworks) is the first non-English foreign language movie I saw. At first, the film appeared a bit loosely plot. The scenes are sporadic, and most of them are even incomplete. There is no commentary and the dialogues are very few. But still, I found the character development quite faultless. It takes a while for the plot to develop and make sense. With the most unique filmmaking style, Takeshi has put his soul in the film.

The movie is about the lives of two ex-cops who have come to terms with apathy. The character Nishi, played by the director himself, is an emotionally restrained ex-cop. Throughout the movie, Takeshi‘s face is devoid of expressions and you can hear him talk only around six times in the movie. Nishi is dealing with the sorrow of his beloved wife Miyuki‘s (Kayoko Kishimoto) health: she has leukemia and only a few days to live. The couple lost their daughter at a very young age.

Horibe (Ren Osugi) is a fellow ex-cop and a good friend of Nishi’s. Horibe gets shot in a stakeout and loses his legs while one other cop loses his life, for which Nishi considers himself responsible. After the accident, Horibe’s wife and children leave him and he becomes socially evasive. He seeks solace in painting and mostly paints animals and humans with flowers in the place of their heads. The paintings shown in the film are actually the director Kitano’s original work. Nishi. who had taken a loan from Yakuzas (Japanese mafias) for Miyuki’s treatment is now unemployed Nishi and neck-deep in debt; he decides to rob a bank and does it successfully. With the stolen money he pays off the loan (without interest) to the Yakuza, buys his disabled friend materials for his paintings, a gift for his friend’s widow, and with the remaining money. he decides to fulfill his wife’s wishes. Miyuki lives her last days like a child. Even in silence the  comic moments between Nishi and his wife are well expressed. Horibe eventually kills himself.

It’s impossible to ignore the contemporary classical background score by Joe Hisaishi –  it gives a serene feel to the tragic film. Hana-bi is roughly a 95 minute film and it puts across a lot of emotions. With so much less being said in the movie you’d be surprised how brilliant the film turns out. I am sure that most of the you, after watching this minimalistic film, will understand and acknowledge the genius that is Takeshi Kitano. Do not watch this film if your mind cannot process silent films – you will get bored.


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1 Response to “Pooja’s Movie Recco: Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-bi (1997)”

  1. June 11, 2012 at 11:23

    Good read. Makes me want to watch the movie, now… !


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