****/**** Image A Sound A- Extras B-
starring Beat Takeshi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima
written and directed by Takeshi Kitano
by Walter Chaw Nishi loves her very much, but when she tries to link arms with him for a photograph, he pulls away. He's not comfortable with his emotions. He's from both a culture and a profession that frowns on that sort of thing. When his co-workers talk about him, they do so in hushed tones and warn one another not to get too familiar, even in their gossip. He's lost a daughter and his wife is very ill. They make allowances for him one day and it results in the crippling of his partner. Nishi avenges him, but another young cop dies in the process. Nishi, dispassionate, empties his gun into the bad guy's skull. But his partner is still abandoned by his wife and child for not being the man he used to be. None of this is how it's supposed to work. Men are taught to be a specific way and promised rewards for their stoicism and brutality. I'm 44 years old. It's taken most of my adult life to begin to unravel the ways that expectation and breeding have made it hard for me to tell my wife, whom I love in a devastating way, "I love you." I was afraid to have kids because I didn't know if I could tell them I loved them. I have two. I tell them every day. I make myself. Takeshi Kitano's Hana-bi deals with the consequences of masculinity--perhaps the most trenchant exploration of the theme not written or directed by Walter Hill. The film understands that some men can only express themselves through motion, which isn't enough in the best of times and is laughably insufficient in the worst of them. Of all the '90s masterpieces of world cinema, Hana-bi is my favourite.