sexta-feira, 20 de março de 2009

Hana-bi: The Beautiful Waning of being

(Hana-bi, 1997)
By Casio Abe

Takeshi Kitano broke many of his own filmmaking rules in Fireworks, which once again combines skillfully directed action scenes with a spare storytelling style. Techniques he uses for the first time include flashbacks, dissolves, and starting scenes with moving shots that serve to identify the space. He also uses shots that include identifiable landmarks such as the Rainbow Bridge, a Shinjuku intersection sign, and Mt. Fuji. In previous Kitano films, the scenery always captured an anonymity and universality by remaining stubornly nonspecific. In this film, he abandons that strategy; shots impressive for their picture-postcard scenic beauty appear repetedly. Takeshi Kitano, the visual artist who had in the past insisted on gray overcast exteriors, does not shy away from shooting bright and sunny exteriors here. As a result, Fireworks is the first of his films that could be characterized as "colorful".
This does not imply that it lacks the characteristic "restraint" of Kitano's work, merely that its "tendency toward plurality" has been strengthened. The films up to and including Sonatine were characterized by their unitary construction. Every shot was independent and pared of impurities. As a result, tension increased as the films approached a conclusion - "death". In contrast, the films after Getting Any? have a pluralistic construction. In Getting Any?, the episodic structure itself was pluralistic, and Kids Return focussed on capturing the multifarious lifes of several people. Speaking of Kids Return, the main character here is again a couple. Like Masaru and Shinji, both of whom quit high school to pursue different paths, Fireworks depicts the different trajectories of Nishi (Beat Takeshi), an ex-detective forced into retirement, and Horibe (Ren Osugi) - (one could see this film's Takeshi/Osugi pair as Masaru/Shinji years later). But there is a difference. In Kids Return, the similarity between Shinji and Masaru was the transitional arc in which Shinji, through boxing, and Masaru, through being a yakuza, each reached their peak before falling from grace. In Fireworks, a different cruelty is carved out by the way the lives of Takeshi and Osugi are unable to come into alignment with each other. During the stakeout of a murderer, Osugi is shot and paralized from the waist down. He retires from the police, is abandoned by his wife and daughter and spends his days in despair at the beach until he discovers painting. While in pursuit, Takeshi sees the killer who got away with shooting Osugi kill another police officer. Takeshi loses control and brutally retaliates. He is, as a result, dismissed from his job. Prior to this, Takeshi had already lost a young child, and his wife (Kayoko Kishimoto) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He plunges into debt to raise money for his wife's treatments and to help support the widow of the murdered officer. He thus shares with Osugi a distinct feeling of paralysis. Takeshi's character is expressionless, as if competing with Kishimoto, who, aside from laughing, never even speaks until the very end of the film. Although this expressionlessness creates a feeling of paralysis, it is also true that Takeshi's post-accident face is in fact slightly paralyzed. The moment he removes his sunglasses at the opening of the film, his face reveals a sorrowful beastliness that we have never seen before (it evokes the expressions of the best leading character in a Kitano film, Claude Maki in A Scene at the Sea) Takeshi is no longer emanating fatigue, he is emanating sorrow.
The film's elegiac tone heightens as it progresses toward its dénouement. Osugi sheds tears as he looks at a flower. To make money, Takeshi robs a bank; takes off in a van with his dying wife, and is eventually pursued by his former colleagues (Susumu Terajima etc.). Takeshis' escapades and Osugi's painting process are positioned in a parallel relationship through editing. They are unified by their shared condition of silence with respect to dialogue, and by the editing techniques used in the film. Also of note is the fact that the paintings created by Osugi in the film were actually painted by Takeshi. This film is filled with Takeshi's paintings: under the opening credits, in the hallway of the hospital, in the loan shark's office, on the wall of a bar; etc. All the paintings are detailed and colorfull and have an unabashedly childlike quality (thus the feeling of paralysis exists here as well). They depict angels, animals with flowers in the place of heads, and fireworkd. Filled with primitive painterly impulses, they are like a cross between Kiyoshi Yamashita and Sonnenstern. In one painting, thin white characters meaning "snow" appear against a black ground as snowflakes. Yellow characters meaning "light" create sparkles on the canvas as the camera pans to a large character for "suicide" that looks like a fallen figure on a snowy field. Each painting is a momentary carving of "fire". Therefore, even if the painting as a whole may look like a "flower", it contains "fire" in its details. The title Fireworks (literally, "fire-flower" in Japanese) seems to imply not the opposition of "flower" (life) with "fire" (death), but rather a mutually inclusive relationship. The colorfulness of the film's scenery thus synchronizes with the paintings. This is evidence that the film was created primarily from images in Kitano's brain. In other words, he executed, in his own unique and simple way, the same approach to filmmaking as Tim Burton.
Takeshi Kitano is omnipresent in this film. His alter egos are the paintings, the character he plays, Osugi, the young girl at the end who runs around with a kite that will not fly, and Kayoko Kishimoto, who is the embodiment of "despair" smiling. Hence, this is a film of plurality. Osugi continues to live through the wings of his creative spirit, and Takeshi commits suicide with his wife - this represents the two sides of Takeshi's mental state. What flows throughout is "the feeling of paralysis" that is stamped on the film with finality when the painting of a one-winged angel appears after the end credits. However, this paralysis is more general state of our times rather than a personal one for Takeshi Kitano. That is, more than the feeling of paralysis itself, what is probably being probed here is the beautiful "waning" of being, in which the feeling of paralysis makes the world appear more colorful. Of course, the audience experiences this waning as much as the filmmaker. So it is not something we censure, but rather something we yearn for.

1 comentário:

  1. I wish I had a link to this scene int the film with the snow. I saw it years ago and it's stayed with me.