Hanagatami 花筐 Dir: Nobuhiko Obayashi (2017)

Hanagatami    Hanagatami Film Poster

花筐 「Hanagatami

Running Time: 169 mins.

Release Date: December 16th, 2017

Director:  Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Chiho Katsura(Screenplay), Kazuo Dan (Original Novel)

Starring: Shunsuke Kubozuka, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Keishi Nagatsuka, Tokio Emoto, Mugi Kadowaki, Tetsuya Takeda, Takako Tokiwa, Hirona Yamazaki,

IMDB Website

Is there subject-matter that film as a medium is better than others at capturing? Perhaps it is emotions. Or maybe memories. Filmmakers can examine them in many expressive ways and with an incredible arsenal of technical tools open to the cast and crew, imagination really is the limit. Enter the adventurous Nobuhiko Obayashi, a man not shy of being creative as proven in his career which stretches back to the 1950s and features a long filmography that trades in fantasy, experimentalism, and surrealism. He is best known for the haunted-house musical House (1977) but nothing will prepare those familiar solely with that fun film for Hanagatami! Obayashi’s limiters are off in this deep-dive into the precious memories of a man who lived through an age of emotional turbulence as Japan hurtled headlong into the chaos of World War II.

Hanagatami Image 4

It is the summer of 1941 in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. 17-year-old Toshihiko Sakakiyama (Shunsuke Kubozuka) has just travelled from his parents’ home in Amsterdam to stay with his wealthy aunt Keiko Ema (Takako Tokiwa) in her large manor. He will share it with his sickly cousin Mina (Honoka Yahagi) who suffers from tuberculosis. While there, he is attending a school where falls under the influence of the grim and philosophical Kira (Keishi Nagatsuka) who is physically infirm, and Ukai (Shinnosuke Mitsushima), a boy both strong in body and mind and with a pure soul that attracts Toshihiko. There are girls his age, too. Kira’s cousin, the melancholy Chitose (Mugi Kadowaki) who carries a camera she loves to use to capture people’s existence and the more playful and positive Akine (Hirona Yamazaki) whose mischievous grin and compassion for others lights up all occasions.

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Goth – Love of Death ゴス (2008)

Goth - Love of Death Review HeaderIndie director Gen Takahashi might be familiar to some as the director of the police/crime thriller Confessions of a Dog which was recently released by Third Window Films. Well he followed that up with the horror story Goth – Love of Death another film about outsiders and an exploration of existentialism, love and death.

A hot summer is made interesting when a dead body is left in an artistic pose on steps of a public park in a quiet neighbourhood. Gloomy school-girl Yuko (Rin Takanashi) wanders by and is attracted to the sight of the corpse. She notices a popular classmate named Itsuki (Kanata Hongo) also absorbed by the sight. The murder is soon linked to one that happened two months previously and becomes a media sensation. Yuko and Itsuki soon spark up a relationship and visit the locations of crime scenes together. When they find the killer’s notebook they realise he’s in their social circle.

Itsuki (Kanato Hongo) and Yuko (Rin Takanashi) are on the Hunt in Goth - Love of Death

The film is based on the Honkaku Mystery Prize winning novel named Goth which was later serialised as a manga by Kendi Oiwa. The film references these from the start with a montage of strange images.

Although the film spends a lot of time covering murder and death this plot thread is less fascinating than the developing relationship between Yuko and Itsuki. Just so you know there is little blood and gore just a lot of artfully posed corpses and an ever so slight mystery. The real meat, for me at least, was the growing connection between the two central protagonists and their character growth.

The film conveys the dislocation that the adolescent characters feel. The way the hot summer is captured by the washed out colours and the bouts of slow motion makes life look enervated. The way the camera observes the central duo as they observe others reflects the blooming awareness of their existence in the world.

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