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Rating: 8 stars


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Seen on: 04/19/2020

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Hanagatami (2017)

Directed by Nobuhiko Ōbayashi

Drama | Romance | War

Most recently watched by sleestakk


Spring, 1941. Sixteen-year-old Toshihiko attends school in the coastal town of Karatsu, where his aunt cares for his ailing cousin. Immersed in the seaside’s nature and culture, Toshihiko soon befriends the town’s other extraordinary adolescents as they all contend with the war’s gravitational pull.

Length 168 minutes


Pîtâ | Masahiro Takashima | Takehiro Murata | Toshie Negishi | Takako Tokiwa | Keishi Nagatsuka | Shunsuke Kubozuka | Takao Ito | Tsurutaro Kataoka | Wakaba Irie | Tetsuya Takeda | Kayoko Shiraishi | Tokio Emoto | Kiyotaka Nanbara | Tôru Shinagawa | Honoka Yahagi | Hirona Yamazaki | Shinnosuke Mitsushima | Mugi Kadowaki | Takahito Hosoyamada | Yuriko Ono | Taiyo Okamoto | Ryunosuke Okawa | Yujiro Hara

Viewing Notes

The final feature in DKUTV’s tribute to Nobuhiko Obayashi (to celebrate acclaimed auteur director Obayashi who passed away on April 10, DKUTV ran a marathon of this films today starting with HOUSE and finishing w/HANAGATAMI).

I didn’t want to miss this one b/c I don’t believe there’s another way to view this recent movie. Didn’t realize it was nearly 3 hours long but I’m so glad to see it.

Take Obayashi’s HOUSE aesthetic (ex. the lurid colors, composite shots, bizarre character behavior, etc.) and apply that to a coming-of-age story set on the dawn of the World War II in a remote coastal area of Japan and you have HANAGATAMI. This is a wild movie that I might classify as a masterpiece after another viewing. There’s just so much to take in and process. So much. It’s as though Obayashi just went all out with no fucks left to give. It’s quite something to behold.

Everything on screen fosters an unsettling undercurrent throughout the runtime. Like something is off and it creates a mild tension that mimics the wartime nervousness of that time period. Having the lead actor who is clearly much older than the part he’s portraying is a starter (Shunsuke Kubozuka was 35yo at the time yet is a teenager here). It’s weird! Another device is flipping the shot horizontally between dialogue exchanges; this enhances that feeling of unbalance. It creates almost a dreamlike sequence coupled with the composite shots that very intentionally are meant to appear that way. Crazy stuff that had me dialed in because I didn’t know what to expect next.

Yet the film and story continues to go to places I would not have imagined. It’s brilliant, really. I will be thinking about it for a long time. Not sure where DKUTV got this but I need to find it.

Not entirely certain but I think Obayashi uses actual current footage of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (enormous lantern float festival held in late summer) as a backdrop for a key sequence. It’s a wild composite that yet again lends to the distorted feeling of his directing. It may not be Aomori but a similar lantern festival. It’s remarkable.

UPDATE: I saw that Third Window is releasing this on Blu via Arrow Films this summer!!! So excited!


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