HANA-BI by Kitano

  • 1359
  • 8
  • 4
  • English 
Nov 13, 2011 18:22
Sometime about 10 years ago, when I was in Japan, I heard a rumour that the films made by Takeshi Kitano were extremely popular among European people.

Takeshi Kitano 北野武 is by far best known as Beat Takeshi ビートたけし, one of the most successful comedians, in Japan. He's been the busiest comedian on TV for almost 30 years and often called one of the Big Three (others are Tamori タモリ and Sanma Akashiya 明石家さんま). To be honest, among the three, he is least my favourite. His talk and jokes are not that entertaining, funny or sophisticated, in my opinion, perhaps because he was born in Tokyo and I'm from the west.

Anyway, because he was already an established comedian, most Japanese people had never seriously taken his films; It must be his non-sense again. However, European people seemed to love his film somehow. I watched a special TV program about the enthusiasm for Kitano films in Europe. I thought, "Seriously?"

Gradually, he became also known as a film director in Japan. I watched his Zatōichi 座頭市 (2003) in a cinema. It was a remake of a classical samurai 'chanbara チャンバラ' series. The main character, Ichi, portrayed by Kitano, had blond hair, although he was a 100% Japanese and the story was about 300 years ago. Farmers started tap dancing all of sudden. It was a OK film, but as a samurai film, it was quite bizarre. Well, I didn't like it.

I also watched his first film, Violent Cop (1989) on TV. It was very impressive and memorable, but it was all about violence. I didn't like it either.

So, my take on his films was that they always contained violence and they were bizarre. Fair enough, furious Kitano once attacked the publisher of a gossip magazine with his henchman comedians and they were arrested. He was born to love violence. I dismissed his films.

Recently, however, I got to know a Polish couple. For the first time, I realized that the rumour I heard in Japan before was true. They love Kitano films. From their knowledge, I knew they were not flattering Japanese culture. They really love Kitano films.

Well, I had only watched two of his films and dismissed him. Perhaps, that was not fair after all. Watching another Kitano film wouldn't cost my life. Go for it.

Then, without expecting too much, I watched HANA-BI (1997), the film generally accepted as his best. It won the Gold Lion prize in The Venice International Film Festival.

Oh, I was astonished. It was a great film. Violence in this film works magically in harmony with static scenery and paintings. I understood that why this film was not successful in Japan. It's too 'artistic' for a film made by a comedian. There's no handsome young men or beautiful women in the film. The film shows you just common landscapes in Japan. No visual effects. No magic spells. Even so, it is very 'strong'. No matter how crap his other films are, this one is one of the best films I've ever seen. I was also a bit embarrassed in that Japanese people couldn't understand or praise the beauty of this film before Europeans.

Since there's only a few lines in the film, I had to listen to some muttering lines repeatedly to follow the plot. Maybe, it's not the greatest film for Japanese learning.^^