The superb films by master filmmaker Takeshi Kitano are something of an acquired taste, largely ignored even back in Japan until his 1997 film Hana-bi brought him worldwide acclaim.Told, at least for the first half, in a jarringly disjointed non-linear fashion, the narrative follows ex-cop Nishi, weighed down by emotional and financial burdens, who takes a fateful road-trip with his dying wife, and is hunted by both his fellow colleagues and the angry Yakuza that he is indebted to. The story, however, is arguably far less important that the design of Kitano’s mood piece, which exhibits the director’s trademark features.Static-camera shots, perfectly framed, with almost no dialogue and seemingly nothing going on (at least not in-frame), riding the wave of celebrated composer Joe Hisaishi’s melancholic score (whose style you should recognise from just about any Studio Ghibli production you’ve ever seen), and often – and suddenly – punctuated with equal part fragments of wonderfully natural deadpan humour and bouts of abrupt, shocking violence.
Kitano's striking visuals paint more than a thousand words.
After a near-fatal motorbike accident a few years earlier, the once-famous Japanese comedian-turned-serious-filmmaker Kitano finally gained universal recognition with a celebrated masterwork that is both an accomplished, richly-layered piece, and also a highly personal one, steeped in the trappings of the aftermath of this tragic event which left his face partially paralysed.
Indeed the fate of one of the other key characters in the film appears to draw directly from his own personal experiences, not least in the recovery process, which involves adopting a painting hobby that actually utilises the artwork that the director created when he himself was recuperating. There’s so much depth to the piece, it practically warrants a second watch almost as soon as you’ve finished the first one, and marks a great introduction to one of the most impressive modern directors in Japan.
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