A lovely way to start our 06 TIFF with Koreida Hirokazu's HANA - His films are not to be missed at any opportunity. HANA takes quite a a turn for him with this end of the 17th century samurai revenge tale with a at times comedic twist.
Amidst the abject poverty and the downfall of the samurai Hirokazu finds transcendent beauty and the samurai adherence to truth and honour. Yet this is not your Kurosawa samurai. This young samurai Sozaemon is bent on a quest for vengeance for the death of his father has weaknesses and flaws. But the quest begins to falter. Our hero is taken to task for delaying his revenge by the people who are paying his way. Instead of wielding a sword, he has turned to wielding the pen, and teaching this village of Edo [ which is to become Tokyo ] how to write. He has little pocket change but amidst the village he is comparably wealthy and able to pay his rent to the corrupt landlord. The samurai discovers that his mother has kept a great deal of the money supposed to come his way - doling only a very meagre amount for subsistence. But the money is a minor problem for his eye has caught the local beauty Osae - a widow with a son. He prays with her and takes long walks with her and her son. He is very philosophical and gentle in his ways. Set in the background of Hana is the story of the 47 ronin without a leader, who are hiding out in a hut, and are seeking their own vengeance - the way of the samurai has come to an end in industrial Japan. Through the co-operation and humour of the villagers including the local idiot, Sozaemon is able to stage a revenge play and fulfill his task in this manner. Hana is very untraditional too - with English madrigal music more appropriate to Shakespeare in Love colouring the background - a nod to the European influence in this time in Japan.
In the end, the lesson is the cherry blossoms fade every fall only to come back in spring - with greater beauty. Hana is a wondrous movie with a smile and a wonderful way to start 06 TIFF.