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Detective Nishi (Takeshi Kitano) and his partner Horibe (Ren Osugi) are going to a stake out, but Horibe persuades Nishi to go and visit his wife (Kayoko Kishimoto) in hospital, where Nishi learns her illness is terminal. Meanwhile, the stake out turns into a shoot out, with Horibe badly injured. This event triggers a series of dramas, including Horibe’s wife leaving him and Nishi resigning from the force. Horibe turns to painting, while Nishi turns to crime, robbing a bank to pay off a loan shark and help the widow of a fellow office killed in action. Nishi takes his wife on a road trip into the country, as a farewell journey, but their peace is broken by the yakaza loan shark and his thugs.

"The synopsis above suggests a cohesive story told in linear fashion; Hana-Bi is anything but linear, and I find it less than cohesive. Despite its many accolades – or perhaps because they made me expect too much – I find Hana-Bi interesting only on an intellectual level (as filmmaking) but not really satisfying as an experience. The a-chronological structure often seems laboured and Tasheki’s deadpan performance (compared by one critic to a mask in Noh heatre) strikes me as plain empty. I don’t find the film poetic, as some have, in fact a good deal of it, such as the acts of remorseless violence, I find quite ugly. The blend of Japanese gangster flick with a sustained play on imagery about life/flowers/death is not fulfilling or emotionally engaging, particularly as Nishi and his wife hardly speak to each other and show little sign of the deep love that is suggested by the action. The time-switch-driven editing works well enough for edginess’ sake, and Joe Hisiashi’s score is evocative of middle Europe, mid-century. But festival audiences – and other critics - have loved it."
Andrew L. Urban

"There are many impressive things about Hana-Bi, yet the film is not as compelling as it thinks it is. Visually, director Takeshi Kitano has a wonderfully stylised approach to cinema, and so consequently, it has many powerful moments, but the film is so cinematically self-conscious, that one becomes all too aware of the film's shortcomings, in terms of script and characterisation. The film really is a series of excessively violent bursts, excessive to the point where they have little to do with a real sense of narrative. The violence seems to be used for shock value, and even on that level, one is ultimately numbed by it all. The violence becomes the film, and overshadows all else. Kitano also plays the lead role and there's such an obvious degree of emotional detachment in this character, that empathy with the audience is consistently eroded. Hana-Bi is an interesting work, and displays a certain gloss and polish, but it's more technically proficient than it is engrossing in terms of narrative cinema. If the script were as detailed as the direction, one could easily imagine that a great film may well have emerged from these over-the-top fireworks."
Paul Fischer

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CAST: ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko, Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe, Hakurya, Taro Itsumi, Makoto Ashikawa, Yuko Daike

PRODUCERS: Masayuki Mori, Yashushi Tsuge, Takio Yoshida

DIRECTOR: Takeshi Kitano

SCRIPT: Takeshi Kitano


EDITOR: Takeshi Kitano, Yoshinori Ota

MUSIC: Joe Hisaishi


RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 3, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: April 21, 1999

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