In 2016, Nobuhiko Obayashi, the director of movies Hausu, Sadu, and Onna-zakari was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given months to live. With little time left, for what was supposed to be his last film he decided to adapt Kazuo Dan's 1937 novella Hanagatami, his most passionate, biggest project 4 decades in the making.
Fulfilling his filmmaking dream of 40 years, legendary director Obayashi, whose 1977 feature Hausu has become an international cult classic, delivers a timeless story of the pureness of youth beset by the chaos of war with his passionate feature, Hanagatami.
Nobuhiko Obayashi died April 2020 aged 82 in Japan.
Based on Kazuo Dan's 1937 novella of the same name, Hanagatami starts in spring 1941, and sixteen-year-old Toshihiko leaves Amsterdam to attend school in Karatsu, a small town on the western coast of Japan, where his aunt Keiko cares for his ailing cousin Mina. Immersed in the seaside's nature and culture, Toshihiko soon befriends the town's other extraordinary adolescents as they all try to attempt to deal with the war's inescapable gravitational pull. With his memories as a World War II survivor echoing in the uncertainty of world events unfolding today, director Obayashi returns us to a very uncertain time for Japan, as unstoppable momentum as events of war forcibly seized the lives of youth away to battlefields where they would be gone forever. In dazzling, full-bloom Obayashi style, 'Hanagatami' captures passion, innocence, and struggle of the end days of youth in a country consumed by the flames of war.
Now, I confess that I wasn't quite sure what exactly to expect with this one, Having not seen any of Obayashi's work before (although doing research now I have to admit I'm certainly interested in looking at few of his movies, Hausu in particular) but this is a beautiful and charming movie that highlights innocence, anger, love, dreams, angst and so much more emotions and feelings of teenagers as life gets turned upside down by a lot more than their hormones. It may be based on a book but it feels like it has no story to it at times, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, this movie has a dream-like quality to it, which just adds to the charm and beauty of this masterpiece. A bit of a heads-up, there is a little bit of nudity in it (both male and female), and this is quite a long movie weighing in a just under 3 hours, although that is becoming the norm now these days isn't it?
This piece of Japanese cinema is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it is the kind of thing that people should watch at least once, especially if they have a keen interest in film, I highly recommend this movie, it is most certainly a worthy Blu-Ray to the collection.
The Blu-Ray is really nice with a lovely looking cover, and also has a look at the making of the movie and an interview with Obayashi. The subtitles on the movie are optional, so if you are fluent in Japanese you don't have to be distracted by the English subtitles.
Hanagatami is rated 15 and is on Blu-Ray from July 6th, 2020 and you can order directly from Arrow HERE. It will also be available on VOD from selected retailers.
JANUARY 9 1939 - APRIL 10 2020