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NewCityNet Film Tip of the Week


By Ray Pride

MARCH 23, 1998:  Yoshitaka Nishi (writer-director-painter-producer-editor Takeshi Kitano) is a Tokyo cop. He's Lee Marvin, sleek and invisible behind Armani suit and sunglasses, moving through his workday, mostly standoffs with yakuza lowlifes. He worries about his ill wife (she speaks two words in the entire film, but the looks between them say much). He remembers a stakeout that went wrong-bloody nasty wrong. He executes a simple plan to rob a bank. He encourages his former partner, crippled in the shootout, to paint. The paintings grow increasingly involved, flowers that mutate into strange animals, snowscapes, bursts of fireworks, exploding flowers. Nishi pays off the yakuza. The yakuza know he robbed the bank. They want the money; they want revenge for the yakuza whose eye he stabbed with chopsticks. Taciturn, face filled with sorrow and rare amusement, Nishi won't compromise. But can you live a standoff? Nishi's life, Kitano's film, is a feat of pluperfect balance. Here's a movie that works for me in every single frame and cut, each gesture, each image, Takeshi Kitano's deadpan hilarious, bloody, tender, lyrical "Hani-Be (Fireworks)." Little is said, guns are fired, kites are flown, flowers are painted, regret is dispersed. The world in "Fireworks" exists in small, delicate moments, like the best movies, like life. I've seen this intricately structured, flashback-driven story twice, and could see it a few times more. It's that good. While Miramax is releasing his previous movie, "Sonatine," in the wake of this Venice Film Festival award-winner, the Japanese-lead actor is known mostly by a video collectors' underground that esteems his work as poetic splatter-words that could describe "Fireworks," but I'd prefer to call it a transcendent masterpiece, one of my favorite movies of the decade.

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