Plot: In a poor district of Edo lives a young samurai named Soza. He has been sent by his clan to avenge the death of his father. He isn't an accomplished swordsman however, and he prefers sharing the life of the residents, teaching the kids how to write etc. When he finally finds the man he is looking for, he will have to decide whether he follows the way of the samurai or chooses peace and reconciliation.
«A beautiful little film, one can only hope that Hana Yori Mo Naho (so far his most accessible film) becomes the one to open the eyes of distributors in the West to the talents of Hirokazu Koreeda. With such an impressive back catalogue of films to support this little gem, it is surely time that we see his work made available for fans of all cinema to discover.»
«While the gentle, almost TV drama like, flow of “Hanan Yori Mo Naho” was a pleasure to watch, the overall impact of the movie was diluted by a few questionable decisions on the part of Hirokazu Koreeda. The film lost some of its luster by the second half of the film, as the overabundance of characters and subplots started to weight down the film. Less characters and a few minutes shaved off the runtime would have done wonders in this department. An even more compelling issue would have been with the manner in which Koreeda unveiled his pacifists message.»
«Accordingly, Koreeda now has the clout to make a film that violates most of the samurai genre rules, just as Kurosawa violated them in "Dodesukaden" and "Donzoko" -- and famously flopped. Will "Hana" meet the same fate? Not necessarily -- though it is one of Koreeda's rare stumbles.
Not because of the performances, which are almost uniformly excellent. Koreeda has always been good with actors and in "Hana" he has drawn performances that both stand on their own and form part of a well-balanced whole. Nearly everyone plays a shade or two bigger than life -- just as they do in countless other Japanese period films, but even the minor characters have histories and personalities, not just labels and ticks. »
«Those who go into HANA expecting the same sword-clashing period pieces that have made the samurai genre as exciting and breathtaking as it is might be disappointed. However, they might find something else entirely: a thoroughly moral story that states Kore-eda's non-violent message loud and clear without being preachy or too black and white (Kore-eda introduces some intriguing moral ambiguities in the film's final half hour or so). If nothing else, the film's technical merits -- costuming, set design, cinematography -- are outstanding, and the soundtrack, which owes more to 18th century European music than it does traditional Japanese music, adds an offbeat but welcome energy to the film.»
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