Takeshi Kitano is one of the most dazzling, complete and complex directors born in cinemas from the 90s to today. A very rare talent for the history of cinema and a total author, already completely done and finished since the debut film Violent Cop, both as an actor and as a writer / director. Takeshi Kitano's is a primeval and immaculate cinema, made up of images and scenes, emotions and impressions. It is in every single film, but it was especially with Hana-bi: Flowers of Fire.
"Beware, this man is extremely violent"
The paragraph title is the literal translation of the name for the Japanese market of Violent Cop, Kitano's debut film. Initially chosen as an actor, Kitano became the director of the project inheriting it from Fukasaku, a great yakuza movie and demiurge of the ten-year saga of Fight without honor code.
But on closer inspection Kitano's cinema is not extremely violent, in case it is extreme in every possible sense.
It is in the acting between the impassive and the macchiettistico, between caricature and exasperation of archetypes, it is in the style of motionless shooting that almost forces the camera to stasis, in the abrupt and sudden editing, often edited by Kitano himself, but also in the narrative balance capable of finding humor and sweetness in the midst of a very dark and brutal.
Takeshi Kitano's is a radical cinema, often called "right-wing" if not even fascist by detractors, but unmistakable.
Kitano's work is beautifully and proudly an end in itself, is deeply aware of its being cinema but at the same time it cancels itself out, working more on single images than on their consequentiality.
It is a characteristic that belongs not so much to the audiovisual sector as to painting, not by chance another passion of Kitano is a fundamental artistic outlet in his masterpiece Hana-bi.
Today Hana-bi is mainly remembered for his triumph in Venice 54, where the jury awarded him with the coveted Golden Lion. Yet awards in cinema are not everything, and certainly Hana-bi should not be considered Takeshi Kitano's masterpiece just for the trophy.
If anything it is for how it introjects in its dramatic 103 minutes all the cinema that its author had done before and also what he would have done in the following years.
There is incredible reinterpretation of the detective genre and the yakuza-movie that had distinguished Violent Cop, Boiling Point e Sonatine but also the boundless sweetness of Silence on the sea, the sense and desire for freedom of Kids Return and then the remnants of the future Brother, L'estate di Kikujiro, the saga of Outrage and so on.
The film parenthesis of Fellini-style psychoanalysis (which Kitano will then tackle head on) also begins here.
It is no coincidence that everyone the paintings framed in Hana-bi are made by Kitano himself, have a precise meaning and tell an incredible desire to live, despite everything.
In fact, the film came three years after the most important and traumatic event in the life of its author, that one of the motorcycle accident that occurred in '94 which risked killing him and that instead, almost by the will of a higher destiny, contributed to making his face even more unusual, characteristic and wonderful for the camera.
Thus was born his distinctive tic in his right eye, which definitely thins the boundary between the Kitano person and the Kitano actor, which in this film also returns in front of the camera after the crime.
Hana-bi is a game between life and death which seems born as the epiphany of a man one step away from his creator.
It is an incredible film of dichotomies of extremes as is the whole of its author's cinema, a film of flowers and fire, blood and snow.
An elegy to love and death, to life and hatred, a tale of opposite poles and of art that is now one thing, now another but that in every moment it is both detail and overall picture, not a mixture of colors but a combination of shades, a masterpiece of patient, angry, serene, sweet pointillism.
It is the best example of a unique and universal cinema almost from the Morse alphabet, a line for long shots and a point for tears, violence or delicacy, that in Hana-bi seems to implode and look at itself.