Starring: Beat Takeshi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Hana-Bi is arranged like a strange piece of ikebana – scenes of explosive violence are juxtaposed with serene meditations on flowers and landscapes. And then there are the eponymous fireworks; dysfunctional fizzles with the exception of one big beautiful bang. But the pyrotechnics in the film’s title refer more to the explosive nature of the lead character, detective Nishi who, in the wake of a few nasty massacres, is left with a paralysed partner and a terminally ill wife. And as if that wasn’t enough to make him go off the deep end, he looses his job too.
But while he may be a seething mess on the inside, on the outside, this is one cool dude. He sports round-rimmed shades to mask his inner turmoil – a clever prop as they also disguise a slight facial disfigurement incurred by the actor, Takeshi Kitano (better known to his fellow countrymen as Beat) in a motorcycle accident a few years earlier. Kitano is a Japanese superstar having worked as a comedian during the 70s and later adding screenwriting/directing/editing to his resume. With this, his seventh feature film, the 50 year old auteur really hit the big time, taking out the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival amongst other accolades.
Kitano’s style is sparse with barely any dialogue; it’s virtually non-existent between his character and his wife Miyuki (Kayoko Kishimoto). There are flashbacks and flashforwards and lots of slow motion footage, particularly when a murder is remembered. And then there are the paintings, done by Kitano himself and featured throughout the film as those produced by his character’s wheelchair bound partner Horibe (Ren Osugi). The last one featured is a snowscape of Japanese characters with the word ‘suicide’ emblazoned in red across its surface – a word that echoes another piece of blood red graffiti seen earlier in the film; ‘Drop Dead’. With a trail of bodies behind him and both the Yakuza and police on his tail, there is really only one way out.