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The Asian ApertureHana and Alice (2004)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, June 9, 2013    Share

How far are you willing to go to get what you desire? Such is the question asked and resolved in Shunji Iwai’s Hana and Alice. Iwai is my favorite director that appeals to the art house crowd. His previous films such as Swallowtail Butterfly (1996) and All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001,) show an intelligent director with artistic sensibilities that can still hold the attention of the MTV generation.

Hana and Alice begins with the two characters, named Hana and Alice, acting like typical girls in any country, traveling on the train and sharing conversations. Then the pair spot a handsome young male who is engrossed in his book and occasionally reads out loud; even on a crowded train. Hana and Alice have been great friends for a long time and they both attend the same ballet school. Their friendship has endured the usual ups and downs that occur in any relationship.

Hana passes her High School Entrance Exam and is all set to embark on her new high school. Japanese high schools have clubs and circles and students are encouraged to check out a variety of them and find that special one that fits. Hana joins the Storyteller’s Club and it just happens to be the one that Masashi belongs too. Masashi is the handsome boy from the train that Hana is infatuated with. I get the feeling that she has no interest in learning the art of storytelling and is only after Masashi, however later on in the movie, she does memorize lines and performs well in front of crowds.

Hana follows Masashi on his way home. Masashi is busy reading his book. He is so into reading that he misses seeing a garage door that is hanging down just enough for him to walk into. His book goes flying out of his hands and he hits the pavement hard. Masashi tries to get up, as if nothing has just happened, only to fall down again. Slowly trying to open his eyes, Masashi sees Hana standing over him. Hana is quick to tell him that he has amnesia and that they are a romantic couple. Masashi doesn’t know what to think as Hana keeps insisting that they are going out. Soon they are together on dates as Hana keeps Masashi thinking he has amnesia.

As Hana’s lies continue she even involves Alice. She demands that Alice pretends that she is Masashi’s ex-girlfriend. This creates a strain in Hana and Alice’s friendship until it becomes so bad that Alice breaks off the friendship. Alice also goes out on dates with Masashi as he tries to remember when he actually was her boyfriend. Soon all three will be in contact with each other’s lives as the fabricated story goes on.

Hana and Alice is all about emotions and the manipulations that people put each other through to get what they want without regard for the actual person and what that person is going through. Sometimes a lie can be stretched out over a certain length of time until it comes snapping back like a rubber band. Will Hana and Alice ever renew their friendship? Will Masashi learn the truth? It is best to experience seeing Hana and Alice to get those answers.

Iwai’s direction in Hana and Alice is superb with witty dialogue that works well with the beautiful scenery. Iwai’s artistic nature can take an ordinary house and transform into something visually appealing. He also creates believable characters that no matter what they are into and how bad they are, you still don’t mind spending the day with. Iwai puts in such great detail that it goes beyond the dialogue as he does so with Alice’s mother, recently divorced, unclean house, and hording massive amounts of objects inside that pile up.

Even if art house movies are not you thing, there is something special in Hana and Alice for all movie lovers. Shunji Iwai’s story is sure to entertain and with all the big budget Hollywood movies with violence and unbelievable special effect that come out every Summer, it is refreshing to see a movie this believable that has none of the Summer movie clichés. Hana and Alice is a great Summer movie to watch that is character driven with a lot of heart.

Highly Recommended

5 out of 5 Stars

Available on Netflix for streaming and on DVD from Homevision

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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