Monday, April 23, 2012
Hakuchi: The Innocent (1999) / directed by Macoto Tezuka
A little Eastern gem by Osamu Tezuka's heir, Macoto. He shows the same compositional eye as his father and has the love of the fantastic that permeates so much of manga. Yet, he stays true to cinematic conventions by aligning his story within classical structure and psychological believability.
Isawa (Tadanobu Asano) is a young journalist in a Japan plagued by war, and subsequently dumbed down by the flamboyant media broadcasts of the TV station that he works at. Ginga (Reika Hashimoto) and Sayo (Miyako Koda) are the two women occupying his life, one who's a mass media starlet, and the other who is loving yet mentally challenged. As he navigates this shattered world, he comes into himself as an individual, all the while not fully committing to either woman, by hiding Sayo in his room, away from his nosy landlords, and shunning the childlike and conceited advances of Ginga. On top of this is his draconian boss, played by an always-welcome Yoshio Harada, and the general living situation, where it appears that all, even so-called privileged people like Isawa, who don't have to fight in the war, live in a state of poverty. Of particular note are the scenes between Isawa and Ginga, and the power struggle that takes place between them. Reika Hashimoto ought to be commended for holding her own at age 19 against Asano, who had by then already made a firm place in the hip Japanese cinema, like this film.
The picture works well as a "world-portrait" more than the Western convention of understanding the motives of one character. This is a very unique film among many, and for those who enjoy it, like myself, it should spur them on to visit more of Tezuka's work, and even read his father's comics to see how deep the heritage goes. He seems to have delved into genre film-making with 2004's Black Kiss, but judging by this entry, it ought to be more than a play on the expectations of a scare-picture.