HANA-BI, KIKUJIRO AND DOLLS: A TRIPLE BILL OF TAKESHI KITANO FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS.
HANA-BI. (1997) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKASHI KITANO. STARRING TAKESHI KITANO, KAYOKO KISHIMOTO AND REN OSUGI.
KIKUJIRO. (1999) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKESHI KITANO. STARRING TAKESHI KITANO AND YUKUSE SEKIGUCHI.
DOLLS. (2002) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKESHI KITANO. STARRING MIHO KANNO AND HIDETOSHI NISHIJIMA.
I had the best time of my life watching these three superb Japanese-language movies back-to-back over the May Bank Holiday this year. My first big summer Bank Holiday of 2016 was spent wholly immersed in flowers and butterflies and angels and the glorious colours, beautiful music and tender, heartfelt emotions of a Takeshi Kitano film and I absolutely loved it!
Okay, so half the guys who read my reviews have probably run away screaming by now, haha, but for those who've remained, don't worry. There's plenty of violence and blood and guts and even appearances from the Yakuza in the films too. The films are by no means sappy or soppy. They pack a powerful punch emotionally, visually and intellectually and they're all three of them the brainchild of Takeshi Kitano, an extremely interesting character indeed.
Takeshi Kitano was born in Tokyo in 1947. He's also known by his nickname 'Beat Takeshi,' a throwback to his background in stand-up comedy in the mid-1970's. He acts in both HANA-BI and KIKUJIRO and he's so super-cool in them both and so funny in a deadpan kind of way that I could well imagine him doing comedy and being feckin' brilliant at it...!
As well as being one of Japan's most respected movie directors (HANA-BI won the Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Film Festival and it was named Best Non-European Film at the 1997 European Film Academy Awards), the quirkily handsome Takeshi Kitano is uber-talented at a bunch of other stuff too. He's also a writer, a cartoonist and a painter, and his paintings are absolutely stunning. How do I know this? Because some of his gorgeous artwork features in HANA-BI and KIKUJIRO, that's why...!
In HANA-BI, Beat Takeshi plays Nisho, a tough detective with a soft centre who quits his job when his best mate in the force is left a paraplegic after an horrendous shoot-out. Nishi devotes his retirement time to taking his dying wife on a wonderful holiday and helping Horibe, his friend in the wheelchair, to lead a life of at least some fulfilment and happiness by taking up painting.
Nishi is an unpredictable chap with a penchant for violence if he's crossed. He's borrowed money from the Yakuza to fund the holiday for his wife and, when the lads in the sharp suits show up looking for their dosh, the fur not unnaturally flies and things get a little heated.
Nishi is immensely likeable though. In fact, I was a little more than half in love with his character by the time the film ended. The strong silent type always does it for me...! HANA-BI, which incidentally means 'fireworks' in Japanese, has a shocking ending that will leave you... well, shocked, haha. I genuinely wasn't expecting it, anyway. It kind of took my breath away.
In KIKUJIRO, our man plays a sort of dysfunctional but ultimately kind-hearted rogue who takes a small lonely boy called Masao miles and miles out of town on a mission of mercy. Little Masao's Mum has been gone his whole life. When Kikujiro, the Takeshi Kitano character, is ordered by his hectoring wife to take the boy to Toyohashi to see this absentee Mum, the unlikely pair end up inadvertently having the adventure of a lifetime together.
This offbeat road-trip sees Kikujiro and little Masao hook up with a variety of oddball characters who each enrich Masao's journey in ways that he could never have previously imagined. They meet a
juggler, an impoversished poet, a couple of hairy bikers, crooked carnies and, of course, the omnipresent Yakuza.
Kikujiro is rude beyond belief to everyone he meets, but in a funny kind of way, not in a nasty way. He never spares anyone the benefit of the- usually unflattering- thoughts he's having about them at any given moment...! It's just so, sooooo funny to watch.
The random encounters are all hilariously funny in a deadpan, played-down kind of a way. Check out the world's possibly least appealing offer on corn and the biker who seizes every opportunity to get stark nekkid. You'll most likely laugh till you cry, just like I did. I cried even more when I read that Beat Takeshi based the character of Kikujiro on his own Pa, a wee bit of a gambler and a scallywag by all accounts.
Takeshi Kitano doesn't feature in DOLLS as an actor but his directorial trademarks are all there: gorgeous cinematography, fabulous scenery and a riot of bright blazing colours. The film starts and ends with a performance of Bunraku theatre featuring a boy doll and a girl doll. These represent Sawako and Matsumoto, the two main characters in the film, which has three separate storylines running through it.
In the main storyline, Sawako is a young woman who attempts suicide when she hears that her beloved fiancé Matsumoto is being forced into a more profitable marriage by his parents. To his credit, Matsumoto comes rushing to her side when he hears about the suicide attempt. Sadly though, the beautiful Sawako has already lost her mind.
What Matsumoto decides to do then he does presumably out of love for Sawako and also an overwhelming guilt for the pain he's caused her. I'm not going to tell you what he does but their lives afterwards are so bleak and sad that I could barely keep from crying the whole way through the film. Crying, and shouting sensible advice at the screen in the hope that they might hear me...!
There are two other storylines in DOLLS. In the first of these, a young man desperate to meet his female pop idol reacts in a rather strange way when the popstar is disfigured in a car accident.
In the second of these, a woman who is rejected by her boyfriend nonetheless insists on waiting for the big jerk every week on 'their' park bench with a packed lunch full of the food he likes. This bit really annoyed me. How she could be so weak, so pathetic, I wondered, conveniently forgetting all the times I'd done similar stuff for guys who'd messed me around...!
Maybe that's why this particular vignette annoyed me so much. Maybe I don't like it when smarty-pants film-makers hold mirrors up to the faults and foibles of the human race and expertly reflect our own weirdnesses and weaknesses back to us, haha.
These three films all came out on Blu-Ray earlier this year, by the way, courtesy of the lovely people at THIRD WINDOW FILMS. They're all out there now, chock-full of delicious extra features, just waiting for you guys to go out and buy them. I would certainly advise it, and you know that I give top-notch advice, heh-heh-heh.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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