Monday, May 20, 2013

Movie Review: "Hachi: A Dog's Tale"

I had occasion to re-watch, Hachi: A Dog's Tale starring Richard Gere. This was not the healthiest thing I could have chosen to do, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. You can find the DVD on Amazon for the low price of $5 as of the time of this writing. Click the picture to go to Amazon:
I was familiar with the story of Hachi from my studies of Japanese culture. If you're not, I won't spoil it for you, but you can read about the original Hachi here (I recommend waiting until after you've seen the film).

I remember thinking to myself the first time I watched Hachi that I was underwhelmed throughout the first hour or so of the film and particularly with the through-Hachi's-eyes-black-and-white-camera technique that was sometimes used. Then I shut up inside my head because I was too busy trying not to lose my composure.

You see, I had made the mistake of watching Hachi with both my fiancee and my future mother-in-law. Not that they made my enjoyment of it any less than it would have been had I watched it alone, and in fact, for the first hour we were chit-chatting here and there without distracting from the movie (lots of time to do that since we didn't have to worry about missing something Hachi would say).

After the first hour or so, we were no longer speaking and in fact were doing everything possible to not look at anyone or say anything or make any noise whatsoever, because if we had even for a second, that would have been the end of being able to do anything. I will spoil the fact that Hachi is not the happiest of movies.

By, "not the happiest of movies", I mean, I had never been so completely and totally destroyed by a movie. It destroyed me more than Doctor Who does at its best.

My mocking attitude towards the directorial decisions and some of the stupider cheesy movie decisions (old people practicing kendo without armor???) had overlooked the fact that Hachi didn't need to be amazing in its first hour, all it had to do, and it did this relentlessly, was showcase how much Richard Gere's character cares for Hachi, and how much Hachi cares for Richard Gere's character.

Having established this incredible relationship, cementing it, and supporting it in all directions, the only weakness is you watching the movie, and it shows no mercy in destroying that weakness.

The remaining 30 minutes of the movie hit you again and again and again.

It doesn't do this with a surgeon's precision, but it doesn't need to. Be prepared to have a wrecking ball smashed through your heart. Again. And again. And again.

Watching it a second time (I don't know what I was expecting there), only caused the memory of the pain to well up inside during the FIRST hour, BEFORE anything happens. The recovery this time was much faster though (although that might have been from watching it on television and having to deal with commercials as well). When we first watched Hachi, it took us almost 20 minutes before we were even coherent. As the credits rolled we all finally looked at each other (I would have just continued not saying anything or looking at anyone, but as soon as one broke everyone broke!) and the dams were annihilated. There was nothing held back. Even after being coherent, just talking or thinking about Hachi for the remainder of the night set you off again.

If you believe the highest pinnacle of art is to cause emotion, then Hachi: A Dog's Tale is at the pinnacle of the pinnacle. It will tear you apart until it is dividing your atoms and leave nothing but a huge, gaping emptiness where your sense of peace and well-being were before. This movie made me ache with heartbreak.

For you, the final rank of Hachi is an A+, a 10 out of 10.

Even if you're not a fan of animals, if you value loyalty, friendship and love, then you will be destroyed by Hachi.

But the directorial decisions (or possibly the writer's decisions, but I hold the director as the final quality control in movies) do cut back on some "enjoyment" (if enjoyment is even the right word) and I am not someone that thinks that the highest pinnacle of art is to cause emotion (because of the obvious art-that-only-causes-emotion known as propaganda).
So my final rank for Hachi, is a solid B, 8.5/10.

I highly recommend experiencing Hachi at least once, and if you're a glutton for punishment, then $5 is not too bad for guaranteed punishment (in fact, the blu-ray is less than $8). If you're too lazy to scroll up, here is a link to Hachi.again:

What did you think of Hachi? Speaking of famous loyal dogs, has anyone made a movie about Fido yet?