Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

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Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby howardschumann(d) » Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:46 pm

Seen at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)
HANA (Hana yori mo naho)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda (2006)

Hana Yori mo Naho is a Samurai film in which there are no flashing swords or bodies leaping over walls. Hirokazu Koreeda's (Maborosi, After Life) latest is a gentle comedy-drama that deconstructs the legend of the brave Samurai warrior and the Bushido code of seeking honor through revenge. The title of the film means flower, and Hana wants to change the symbol of the cherry blossom associated with the warrior spirit to one that represents a peaceful and nurturing life. Engendered by the earthy humor of the underclass, the film has many laughs, a wonderful soundtrack of joyous Renaissance music, and colorful characters brought to life by an excellent ensemble cast, yet it meanders and lacks a single crystallizing moment that brings its point home.

Set in Edo (modern day Tokyo), Hana takes us back to the year 1702 where Soza (Okada Junichi), a young Samurai has come to the village to fulfill his father's dying wish and seek revenge against his killer, Jubei Kanazawa (Tadanobu Asano). Illuminating the conditions of the times, Soza lives in a dilapidated building that he shares with other impoverished residents: garbage collectors, fish peddlers, and debtors hiding out from collectors. Though he wants to restore honor to his family and collect the 100 Ryo reward from his clan to help his impoverished family, Soza lacks even the basic skills of a swordsman.

This becomes painfully evident when he is roughed up by Sodekichi (Ryo Kase), a local resident who resents the Samurai. A friend, Sadoshiro (Arata Furuta) also exploits the trusting Soza, claiming many times in restaurants that he has seen Kanazawa in order to have Soza buy his food. While seeking the man who killed his father, Soza establishes himself in the community, teaching the boys and girls in the village to read and write and finding much in common with Osae (Rie Miyazawa), a married woman who, with her eight-year old son, is waiting for husband to return. A satirical subplot questioning the legend of the 47 Ronin and the warrior spirit the story represents, complicates things as a group of samurai on their own mission of revenge, hide in the town disguised as professional people.

They distrust Soza, thinking that he is a spy and assign a fellow ronin to watch his every move. When the young Samurai finally crosses paths with his father's attacker, now a family man living with a widow and her child, he questions the Samurai code of honor and the ethics of revenge. Soza, sensitively portrayed by Okada - a band singer turned actor, is a good-hearted man who recognizes the need to better his society, yet Koreeda portrays him as a weakling and a coward, a role that undermines the film's anti-violence message. While Koreeda is to be congratulated for attempting a major stylistic departure and for condemning the endless cycle of violence, Hana falls short of his best efforts.

GRADE: B
howardschumann(d)
 


Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby A » Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:39 pm

Sounds like a real departure for Koreeda. But his films always had some fantastic elements to them. And this one obviously also revolves about death - the right to kill.
Actually what piqued my interst the most was your mention of some joyous renaissance music. I'm currently constantly listening to Monteverdi's L'orfeo opera which I bought a couple of days ago. And I just love the "dance" music from the renaissance.

Could you say more about the music used in Hana, Howard?
A
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby howardschumann(d) » Sat Oct 14, 2006 3:34 am

The music was the best thing in the film but I don't see any listing for it on IMdb. You can listen to it on the film's website:

www.kore-eda.com/hana
howardschumann(d)
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby A » Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:46 pm

You can already get the Japanese DVD (with english subtitles) via YesAsia.

us.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.aspx/code-j/section-videos/pid-1004480241/
A
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby hengcs » Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:08 am

I have bought it but I have not watched it.
Too many films to watch, too little time.
hengcs
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:41 pm

I didn't see this thread listed anywhere, so sorry for my double thread.
wpqx
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:42 pm

With a string of meaningful contemporary dramas Kore-Eda Hirokazu established himself as perhaps the finest Japanese director working today. Yet with Hana Yori Mo Naho he is entering into new territory, that of the traditional samurai film and historical drama. This might seem to take him out of place, but not long into the picture you realize this isn't a blood and guts decapitation fest but a meditation on the Japanese moral code and adapting to changing times. Nothing might be particularly new here, but to take a post modernist mentality, everything has already been done before. This in many ways continues the groundwork already laid out in After Life, Maborosi, and Nobody Knows (still haven't seen Distance). In addition it takes those themes somewhat further by letting us know that they've been around for ages and probably aren't going to end.

The film is full of small touches to marvel at and observe. When three characters go to the temple to pray, they reveal what they prayed for. Of course the insight of a young boy reveals a poignant point "How can one god answer so many prayers?" Its mentioned in passing, but it brings up a good point. The nature of the afterlife which was so brilliantly covered in Kore-eda's earlier film is not so much the focus here, but something that people do think about because the picture is very much concerned with mortality. As one character who knows nothing of the subject exclaims near the end that for a samurai the most important thing is their death. For the particular samurai at the heart of our story, he quickly finds that life is far more worth living and that a never ending quest for vengeance is an empty pursuit. Dying a noble death is no more heroic than living a foolish life, and the 46 samurai who find they have nothing to do in a time of piece "heroically" commit hara-kiri at the film's end. It is a waste and thankfully Kore-eda spares us the bloodshed that so many other directors would find irresistible to leave out.

The irony of the film that so many of the male characters point out is that life isn't really worth living without wars, there's nothing to do. A foolish notion if ever there was one, and the village quickly finds that the smartest people living in it are the children, because they're the ones actually learning to read. The ignorant peasants in town dismiss the samurai's teaching because they still think its more important to know how to fight. They even take it upon themselves to teach the children sword skills, which none of them have, in fact they don't even have a sword. What does get revealed is that the avenging samurai who we have come to regard as a somewhat peaceful and endearing teacher bound by family duty to a task his heart isn't really in doesn't seem to have any samurai skills at all. Its a welcome relief from the typical "super warrior" samurai films we usually see, so much so that our initial reaction is to believe he's bluffing and will emerge a fierce warrior.

His bloodlust gets watered down a bit when he finds himself falling in love with a beautiful widow in the town. Her husband has died years ago from a lung disease but her son doesn't know this, and even makes the image of his father to match that of the man the samurai is looking to kill. It gets somewhat complicated, but we can tell instantly that these two are attracted to each other, but in a village this small every single person wants to know what's going on. In fact even the samurai's uncle who checks in on him believes the widow's kid to be his own, despite the fact that he's only been gone three years and the child is eight. In this world however nothing is quite as simple as two people who love each other being together. Along the way Kore-eda adds some dimensions to the film that make it appear a play within a play, but the fundamental issues remain the same. A welcome change to so many films of the genre, and one that when released here in the states (hopefully soon) will hopefully solidify his status as Japan's pre-eminent filmmaker.
wpqx
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jun 25, 2008 1:50 am

Hana just went straight-to-DVD stateside courtesy of Funimation Entertainment. Looking forward to watching it.
arsaib4
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby wpqx » Wed Jun 25, 2008 4:11 am

I'm still trying to get Distance, could have sworn Odd Obsession had a copy but I haven't seen it since.
wpqx
 

Re: Hana by Hirokazu Koreeda

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:20 pm

If all else fails, you can consider the affordable (and English subtitled) HK DVD of the film. That's what I have. Distance probably resonates more deeply with me than any other Kore-eda film.
arsaib4
 

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