Old Fart Who Loves Japanese Pop Culture 日本の大衆文化を愛する中年

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hana To Alice

From director Shunji Iwai (All About Lily Chou-Chou, April Story) a coming of age comedy about two childhood girlfriends who both fall in love with the same boy. While on a train Alice (Aoi Yu) points out two boys to her best friend Hana (Suzuki Anne), telling Hana she can have the younger one. Nothing happens between Alice and her pick, a westerner named David whom we later learn reminds both girls them of Hanibal Lecter, the girls agreeing people are scarier than zombies or ghosts. However Hana becomes secretly obsessed with Miyamoto (Kaku Tomohiro), covertly following and photographing him. Until one day Miyamoto bumps his head while being stalked and Hana convinces him that he is her boyfriend and has amnesia. More lies are required as Miyamoto begins to ask questions. When Miyamoto discovers old photos of himself on Hana's computer, Alice is drawn into the lie as Hana informs Miyamoto that Alice was his previous girlfriend and she gave Hana the pictures.
Visually it is a beautiful film as are all the movies I have seen that were directed by Iwai, from the opening scene as they stomp through the almost black and white landscape of the snowy field, to the bright colors of the temple festival and the school fair with the kimonos and costumes. The scene that the girls meet in the park in a pouring rain is very well done, the director seems to have an affinity for rainy scenes as this reminds be of a shot from April's Story although the tone of the two scenes are completely different.
This movie falls between two other of his films 'April Story' and 'All About Lily Chou-Chou' all three films dealing with young adults with this one right in the middle of adolescence, 'April Story' about slightly older and 'All About Lily Chou-Chou' being about slightly younger characters. The substance varies from light in 'April Story' to much grimmer 'All About Lily Chou-Chou' again 'Hana To Alice' falls in the middle. The serious questions posed are will competition between the girls ruin their friendship and what price will Hana have to pay for her lie? There are many light-hearted and funny scenes but my particular favourite is when Hana's mother clad in panties and bra walks into the living room and unexpectedly finds Miyamoto, whom she has never met, lying on her couch. He tells her Hana went shopping, to which she replies to make himself at home and nonchalantly walks from the room. Another great scene is when Miyamoto knocks himself out and Hana rushes over to him to make sure he is alright, then rushes back to hiding as he gets up.
I really like Suzuki Anne's portrayal of Hana she has been a favourite of mine since I first saw her in 'L'oiseau bleu / Blue bird' a just average drama but I was impressed with her performance at age 10. She was great in "Stand Up" a Japanese dorama and also the science fiction movie 'Returner'. Aoi Yu was very good as Alice the outgoing girl who pulled shy Hana into the world. Kaku Tomohiro played Miyamoto perfectly as a boy so wrapped up in books, he knocks himself out.
My favourite Japanese actress Hirosue Ryoko plays a magazine representative in an all too brief role, she is concerned that the magazine photographer will draw complaints from Alice's agent for letting Alice dance a ballet in a miniskirt. I wish she had more screen time but as always she doesn't disappoint.
The films genesis was a series of popular candy commercials which were expanded into a series of short pieces online and finally adapted by Iwai into this film.
The DVD has animated menus with a slide show, non animated chapter selection menu, both of these in English and a Cast and Crew guide but this is in Japanese. Standard Audio and Subtitle menus complete the DVD.
I would highly recommend this film as well as the other two Iwai films I have seen, the fluffy romantic comedy 'April Story' and the darker teen cyber drama 'All About Lily Chou-Chou'. I will be on the lookout for more from Iwai in the future but right now this is all that Netflix stocks, looks like I'll have to purchase his other releases which is alright because the three I've seen have great replay value.

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Blogger G2 said...

I love this film even more than April story. Could not stop myself from laughing out loud. It is a keep all right. And perhaps I will re-watch it soon. I am following your foot steps, am I not? I love this director. He is out with a new film this year I think. Can't wait.

3/14/2008 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

@G2 I too love it, Suzuki Anne was just so great as she usually is, Shunji Iwai is a great director and I've enjoyed every movie of his that I've seen. I'll keep my eye out for a new release from him.

3/15/2008 08:47:00 AM  

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