Hana-Bi | Fireworks (1997)

January 9th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Takeshi Kitano | Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe | Japan 98′

There’s a serene stillness that takes all the horror away from the unexpected outbursts of brutal violence that are almost funny – quite apart from the deadpan humour that Takeshi Kitano fully intended in his thoughtful thriller. This makes Fireworks extremely enjoyable as we watch him play an ex-cop whose marriage slowly gets back on its feet after his wife (Kayoko Kishimoto) comes out of hospital. Hana-Bi means fireworks but the words individually mean ‘flowers’ and ‘fire’

Fireworks is an extremely likeable film. Kitano directs and also stars without a shred of sentimentality, just business as usual as he tends to his wife and dispatches the odd criminal who gets in his way in an artfully composed arthouse thriller. His character’s minimal dialogue and terse exchanges also make this a joy to watch for those who hate scrolling through dialogue in an unfamiliar language. Clocking in a just over a hour and a half it also leaves you wanting more rather than less – often the case with lengthy Japanese and South Korean fare.

Inspector Nishi (Kitano) may be a dab hand with a flick knife – which he makes liberal use of – but his sense of honour is second to none. And he feels deeply responsible when his colleague Horibe (Ren Osugi) stands in for him getting life-changing injuries after attempting to arrest a criminal. ┬áNishi encourages him to paint to fill the lonely hours when his wife subsequently leaves him. There’s an amusing vignette with Tetsu Watanabe as a scrap metal dealer.

The paintings are infact Kitano’s own work but provide a delicate leitmotif to the crime caper that went on to win the Golden Lion at Venice in 1997. The finale will leave you with much food for thought. @MeredithTaylor

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