Fall 2008 Issue of KINEMA
Hana Bi (Fireworks, 1997). Japan. Dir: Takeshi Kitano. Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe, Hakuryu Minato-ku.
After winning the Golden Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival, the elegiac and violent yakuza-cop film Hana-Bi (Fireworks) by Japanese director (Beat) Takeshi Kitano drew a full crowd at its preview at the Academy Theatre on a frosty morning in Pusan last October.
The full house testified to the power of a Kitano film which now commands a loyal following verging on the fanatical. In fact, his films attract far more viewers than the cult films of Quentin Tarantino such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
Kitano's films are characterised by his uncanny ability to create, like in the eye of a storm, a quiet beginning which is suddenly whipped into a ferocious chain of events. However, they have none of the sadness of Hou Hsiao-hsien's landmark gangster film, Goodbye South, Goodbye. Kitano's brand of violence is what most women would stir clear off -- heavy doses of lyrical yet unsettling quiet followed by explosions of violence, then back to dead calm.
TOH Hai Leong is a Singapore-based freelance film critic and filmmaker (Zombie Dogs, 2005) who writes for independent film publications such as Screen International and World Paper. He has covered the Hong Kong International Film Festival since 1985 and specializes in the cinemas of Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan.