|Onibi: The Fire Within (1997)|
|Starring:||Yoshio Harada, Reiko Kataoka, Sho Aikawa, and Kazuki Kitamura|
Although the Artsmagic DVD mutes much of the color in the film, the cinematography is still obviously outstanding. It isn’t the sort of film, with it’s relaxed pace and lack of skirmishes, to really demand a lot of kinetic visual imagery, but there is certainly a dreamlike and slightly surreal quality to the movie. One of my favorite moments, and I shall try not to spoil things too much, is a cut between one magnificent shot of Kunihiro and his girlfriend walking towards the camera (away from a burning vehicle) to a love scene which mostly consists of a POV shot from Kunihiro’s perspective. The love scene is very passionate, and Mochizuki’s romanticism is perfectly capture in this stand-out sequence. The writer credited for the film is Toshiyuki Morioka (Blues Harp, Fudoh: The New Generation, Chinpira, etc.) who has a great pedigree behind his name. Blues Harp, the Takashi Miike film, shares a very similar sense of pacing with Onibi. So, combining both Mochizuki and Morioka’s sensibilities seems to have been a rather easy fit. The cast of course is a fairly prominent one, centering around the genre-staple and always interesting Yoshio Harada, who has really taken on some interesting roles this past decade. He gives a very strong performance as Kunihiro, who is quite complex despite his ruggedness. Harada creates a character that is more quirky than he is fearsome, and who seems more introverted than deadly. Yet, his past always remains believable because there’s something underneath the character. It’s not a tangible quality, but there’s a mystery that surrounds this character that leaves the audience questioning him at all times. Then there’s the other big name, the one that probably sold the US distribution rights, Sho Aikawa. Sho plays a small part really, as Kunihiro’s go-to man, but he still manages to craft a poetic character that by the end of the film has fleshed himself out into something totally unexpected. Although his screen time isn’t nearly the size of the main stars, it’s hard not to enjoy the charisma of Aikawa. Very few performances ever feel forced, and although nearly everything about the movie seems nuanced, these characters do manage to feel real.