90s Far East Bracket: Hatachi No Binetsu (A Touch Of Fever, 1993)

The first film in my third match-up in the second round of the 90s Far East Bracket is fascinating, with a capital F!

Written By: Ryosuke Hashiguchi
Directed By: Ryosuke Hashiguchi

I often begin these little reviews of mine with a one word description of the film, usually an adjective of some sort. That’s not always the best strategy because most times I end up spending more time justifying my word usage than I do actually talking about the film itself. But, even that talk is centered on how that word relates to the film, so perhaps it’s not a bad thing to switch things up a bit every once in a while and use a one word description to begin a review. In the case of Hatachi No Binetsu that word would be fascinating (after this review was over I went back and read the review for Hatachi No Binetsu from the first round of the brackets and lo and behold there’s roujin using the word fascinating over and over again in his review).

People can, and will, take the word fascinating in any number of different ways. When I apply fascinating to Hatachi No Binetsu I’m using it in an all encompassing fashion. This is a case of a film fascinating me from start to finish. It doesn’t matter if you want to talk about anything from the directorial touches to the choices made by the actors I was continually fascinated in the places Hatachi No Binetsu had come from, where it was at, and what it’s intended destination was. I love when a movie can do that to me, I become more and more engaged by what I am watching as more and more of the film in question fascinates me. Hatachi No Binetsu was fascinating me from its very first moments, a moment that I will not deny through me for a loop, and it was in that moment when I understood why this film was a success in Japan despite the way their culture generally views homosexuality.

I’ll give you another word, honesty. Again, in film honesty can mean any number of things, but when I speak of honesty in regards to Hatachi No Binetsu I’m not speaking of realistic honesty, but an honest feeling behind what I was watching. After I finished Hatachi No Binetsu I was not surprised to discover that it was an autobiographical picture of sorts for its director and writer, Ryosuke Hashiguchi, it comes across as a film that is being worn on its creators sleeves. There are moments that should feel false, such as when the actors become a bit befuddled and don’t quite seem to have their bearings with what the film wants from them, yet those moments still maintain a veneer of honesty. It would have been easier, far easier I imagine, for Hashiguchi to take a step back from the film and go for something more succinct, something more in line with what audiences are accustomed to. But, he never does that, he makes his movie, warts and all and I was, truth be told, fascinated by the honesty he displayed in making this film his way and still delivering a quality product.

Oh yes, gentle readers, there are warts in Hatachi No Binetsu, most notably in its climactic scene. In that moment the aforementioned Mr. Hashiguchi comes from behind the camera to star as a John who acts as a sort of meta councilor for Tatsuru and Yoriko. It’s a clumsy scene, it fails to gel at points, there are moments when it kind of stalls and loses the momentum it needs to carry through. Yet, it is a fascinating scene in its clumsiness, its inability to gel makes for a surrealism that adds to the honesty I mentioned earlier. The momentum may stall, but it is picked back up again by the fact that these two boys just won’t admit that they love one another. They admit it in tears, in awkward glances, in surreal conversation with the John, but not once do they admit their love to one another in words or physical contact. There is a level of truth in their actions in that final scene that is hard to come by in cinema, and when it does come by it doesn’t matter how clumsy or awkward it is, it always manages to fascinate.

Fascination, honesty, clumsiness, surrealism, these are but a few of the words that describe my experience with Hatachi No Binetsu. What those words add up to was an experience I was glad to partake in. I’m not going to make any sort of declarative statement on homosexual cinema, honestly my exposure to that realm of film is too limited for me to say anything on the subject, but I will say that if you are looking for a film that tackles some tough subject matter in an emotionally honest way then you should give Hatachi No Binetsu a look sometime. It’s not a film that will stand out in any one way, it is very much a film that is the sum of its parts, it is a collective whole that would not work if any single part was lessened or removed. Hatachi No Binetsu may not be the greatest piece of cinema you will ever see, but it is, as I said at the start of this review, fascinating, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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