Nishi is a cop whose wife is slowly dying of leukemia. One of his partners gets shot on the job, which results in him being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and becoming suicidal. Nishi, feeling guilty of his partner's accident, tries to help him in any way he can. At the same time, Nishi leaves the police to spend more time with his dying wife. However, in order to do the right things for those he loves, Nishi must do something wrong, which has tragic consequences. Written by
A breath of fresh air. It's rare poetry -- a sentient piece with unflinching strength. MUST SEE for film appreciation buff.
It's lyrical poetry: sensitive, eloquent, visual, hard and soft edges simultaneously, and sparing dialog. There's no need to tell all -- all is conveyed in the paintings presented, in the words spoken by supporting characters, in facial expressions and gestures. It's minimal -- nothing's gratuitous. The story is told mostly visually, unhurried, not even a hold-up scene -- that feels leisurely, too.
It's a story about a cop, miles apart from Hollywood commercial productions. The treatment writer-director Kitano delivered is unlike any seen before. The central character, Nishi, he has guts to live or to die. "He's a darn good cop," Horibe his partner confirmed. (Horibe, whose poignantly restrained performance by Ren Osugi, is more than just a supporting role in the film). Nishi has two close partners: one (Tanaka) died in action and left a widow, the other crippled in action and confined to a wheelchair. His wife Miyuki (a wonderfully quiet performance from Kayoko Kishimoto) is in the hospital; she's been ill for two years; their daughter died earlier. These details are given to us through casual conversations from supporting characters and flashback memories reflecting Nishi's constantly attentive mind in spite of his mostly blank face.
He's a caring man. But when he is ignited, incensed by injustice or anyone's action or words that get in his way, his reaction is the other extreme of his subdued gentleness inside: an unhesitating steady strike or continuous multiple blows, or "emptying his bullets into a corpse." He has a lot of pent-up emotions ready to explode. Nishi is an honorable man; he felt responsible for the misfortunes that occurred to his two partners. Perhaps it's guilt; he has to do something to amend the situation. There are crime depictions, including Yakuza related segments. His physical reactions to thugs are unflinching to the point of brutal yet they are essentially graphic -- at times in powerful silence.
He's a pensive man -- we can tell he's constantly thinking. There are occasional comic relieving pauses: we see him taking a moment and even breaking into a smile, e.g., when he beckons to play ball with the two workers on the street while at a stake out; his brief exchange with the junkyard owner was revealing. It's all paced in good measure.
It's a quiet film yet strong and deep, filled with human frailties and vulnerable situations. The relationship between he and his wife is beyond words. There are little mutual gestures between the two of them -- so much is expressed silently. Sometimes it's straight to the point short questions from Nishi to his wife -- and this could be delivered to us in voice-overs. The camera gives us serene scenic landscapes: seaside view with a horizon -- waves rolling in being a repeated theme; snow scenes; a temple with a big bell and a few wandering cats. It also embraces the paintings and still lifes (e.g., a wooden puzzle game and two dessert plates on a table), giving us deliberate meaningful close-ups. In HANA-BI, silence speaks louder than effects of any kind.
The film touches on aspects of life and living -- relationships of working partners, husband and wife, and being human. It's a canvas Kitano thoughtfully creatively painted on film -- broad strokes, little poignant details here and there, vibrant solid colors and imageries. Words are sparse. Simple and yet not at all simple. It could be evident that perhaps he did it all for love? His love for his wife certainly shows. Throughout the film, his face seemed void of emotions -- hardly flinches -- and in the end, possibly a flinch or two did cross his face. Perhaps he's resigned to fate?
The music by Jo Hisaishi at times is reminiscent of European film scores, e.g., flowing tune following a car leisurely cruising along the seaside road at some Riviera of Italy or Southern France. It complements the story in soothing tempo from beginning to end. Kitano's "FIREWORKS" is in perfect cadence -- an excellent piece of film expression. A rare gem.
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