Hatsukoi (2006)

14 02 2008

Based on Misuzu Nakahara’s fictional autobiography, Hatsukoi is a story about a young girl coming of age and later, a heist. Aoi Miyazaki plays Misuzu, a high school girl who seeks out her long lost brother (played by Miyazaki’s real brother, Masaru Miyazaki) after a brief encounter with him in a movie theater. She visits the “B” bar where she finds him and many other intriguing personalities that form some sort of group whose motives are overthrowing the government and getting intoxicated. Misuzu starts forming a relationship with Kishi, the quiet one in the group. Since Misuzu is the only one in the group without a police record, Kishi offers his heist plan to her and she accepts.

Though far from being as aesthetically rigorous, this does bring to the mind the same loneliness/alienation mood brought on by the great Tsai Ming-Liang. A big part of this could be credited to the ever-captivating Aoi Miyazaki. I wouldn’t be surprised if first time director, Hanawa, just wanted to make a showcase for her beauty and thus, created a film with her in a lot of (relatively) long static shots. The previously mentioned Tsai vibe contrasts greatly with the distinctly 60s atmosphere that the characters live in. It definitely brings to mind a couple Japanese New Wave films (off the top of my head – The Man Who Left His Will on Film, Pale Flower, Sex Jack) but I suppose the comparisons are inevitable. The photography (from Junichi Fujisawa) is excellent in providing a new perspective on events that I’ve personally see hundreds of times via J-New Wave documentaries.

While all of this is great to me, the film is unfortunately building up towards a very unwelcome plot arc. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the main quote, unquote “purpose” of the film is introduced. The first hour, though not without it’s fault, was built upon truthfully awkward sequences that obtain an oddness akin to Paul Morrissey’s earlier films. While the second half of the film, while maintaining it’s visual beauty, couldn’t be more conventional in a narrative sense. Even with all the silly suspense cliches, there are a few truthful and affecting sequences. The film still falls short on the promise seen in the first forty minutes or so.

This is certainly worth watching, though, if only for Aoi Miyazaki and the equally beautiful cinematography from Junichi Fujisawa. First-time director Yukinari Hanawa shows great promise, especially considering the limitations he was working under. The budget, cast, and popularity of the novel imply that the producers may have wanted something a bit more marketable. Not a masterpiece, but instead, it is the work of an up and coming director who everyone should keep their eyes on.



One response

15 02 2008
Michael Kerpan

This also clearly evokes _French_ nouvelle vague films as well. Viz. Miyazaki’s visits to foreign movies — one of which is French (can’t tell what film from listening) and another Swedish (presumably so9mething by Bergman).

While the _first_ segment of the last half might be more conventional than the rest of the film, the last quarter (or so) of the film is not at all cliched (IMHO).

Not yet a masterpiece by this young director — but a work of exceptional promise.

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