A world-weary yakuza in Tokyo is assigned to take his clan to Okinawa to help settle a dispute between two factions. He's suspicious of the assignment, but he goes, and within a couple days, his role remains unclear and several of men are dead. He retreats to a house on a remote beach to wait. The first night there , he rescues a young woman from an assault, and they develop a playful relationship. Over time, it becomes clear he's been set up, sent to Okinawa so that others can take over his lucrative territory. As his clan dwindles, he plans a revenge. But, what if he's successful? What is there to life anyway?Written by
Hardboiled men's return to childhood freedom and innocence
Sonatine is the last film in Takeshi Kitano's yakuza related trilogy. The first two films are Violent Cop and Boiling Point. Sonatine is, in a way, a combination of these two films, and it is the greatest in this outstanding trilogy, and Sonatine ranks also to the top in Kitano's filmography with Hana-Bi. Sonatine tells the story of middle aged yakuza boss Murakawa (played by Kitano) and his gang's trip to Okinawa to settle some yakuza wars and return the peace to the criminal underworld of Japan. However, they are assaulted many times there and they are forced to go to beautiful beach location and spend some days there and wait for orders from Tokyo, from the higher yakuza authorities. What follows is all the unique elements from both Violent Cop and Boiling Point and totally stunning and breath takingly beautiful piece of art.
There are all the Kitano elements as beautifully present as possible. The scenes are often without too much dialogue, and the film is very symbolical and calm. The faces are among the most important elements in Kitano's films, as there are so many things to be read from characters' faces. Kitano has created this very personal element and it is always there in his films. The setting at the naturally beautiful and uncorrupted seaside has been captured with the camera as brilliantly as we can expect from Kitano; this film is a result that would be born if Kitano had script in which read only one word: Beauty. Similarly beautiful film is his Hana-Bi and Boiling Point has also these elements.
The elements of beauty among others are flowers, firecrackers and colors in general. The scenes at the beach as the gangsters play and have fun are so full of life and certain positivism, it is easy to feel a need for crying during those scenes, and I must say that at least equally powerful experience is the mentioned Hana-Bi, translated to Fireworks in English. The theme of Sonatine is that those brutal and violent humans return to the time when they were still innocent and free of all the wickedness of the world. They play so emotionally and devotedly that it is clear they know there is a better place to be than this world. The girl that is raped is perhaps only person in the film who would not hurt anyone and is like angel here. She knows and has learnt many things about life by the end scene, and make sure you watch the film thoroughly and the end credits, too, as there is more imagery after the credits.
The music in Sonatine is outstandingly beautiful and sad, and is among the greatest musical experiences I've had the pleasure of hearing. The composer is the same as in Brother and Hana-Bi, and the work is as masterful in those more recent films, too. Violence in Sonatine is as sudden and irrevocable as in other Kitano films, and his films really show the real results and face of violence as a weak souls' tool of communicating. If someone considers Kitano's films gratuitously violent, they miss the whole point of the films; these film analyze and tell more about violence than most Hollywood films have ever done, but to admit this, one has to be able to interpret movies and really understand the abilities and power of Cinema. Kitano's films are far too difficult for many to understand, so it is no use trying to show his films to mainstream audience and people who see (if see!) in films only what is explained and said with easy means. If someone says without arguments or understanding to this art form some Kitano film is bad, stupid, gratuitously and excessively violent, unexplained or something else of the usual statements, it is no use taking those "opinions" seriously or consider them noteworthy because people who say so see exactly things that are NOT there.
Sonatine is one of Kitano's most masterful pieces of cinema, and is among the reasons why Japanese (and Orient) cinema is so unique. Sonatine gets 10 out of 10 rating from me, and makes Takeshi Kitano one of the most sensitive, symbolic, stylish in every sense and remarkable film makers of our time, and his films will live as important pieces of history of Japanese and world cinema.
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