Director: Takeshi Kitano
Screenwriters: Takeshi Kitano

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


A cop divides his time between staking out yakuza lowlife and maintaining a vigil at his wife’s hospital bed. Two sets of duties, two rituals of anticipation. Neither ends well. When his stakeout goes wrong, and his buddy takes the fall, detective Nishi (played by filmmaker, artist, and television star “Beat” Takeshi Kitano himself) begins to reevaluate his life. He decides to turn bankrobber to rescue his now-crippled pal and his terminally ill wife. Tragicomic all the way, Fireworks tracks Nishi in his quest for justice and redemption.

Kitano’s elegant film mobilizes an ascetic aesthetic to communicate the subtleties of the human soul. That it does so within the genre of a cops-and-robbers movie is just one of its contradictory charms. Prepare for mood changes usually left untested, all framed and provoked by camera compositions of immense pictorial restraint. Kitano stages his shoot-’em-ups in the service of maximum tenderness. He creates macho heroes only to reveal their profound depth of love and compassion—in between fighting off the bad guys, of course. Kitano is at his best in the role of Hishi, a robocop who wears his heart on his sleeve. His finely tuned sense of obligation and moral balance make for an inexplicably moving journey through the beauties of the Japanese countryside that never wavers in its knife-blade-sharp intensity. A Robin Hood fable about male honor and marital devotion? When you see the kite fly over the beach, you’ll believe.

Takeshi Kitano, Director
Takeshi Kitano first rose to fame as “Beat” Takeshi, one-half of a popular comedy duo. Today he is one of Japan’s popular celebrities—he hosts seven television shows weekly, acts in movies, and has published fifty-five books. Kitano’s films (most of which he also wrote, edited, and starred in) include Violent Cop (1989), Boiling Point (1990), A Scene at the Sea (1991), Sonatine (1993), Getting Any? (1995), and Kids Return (1996). Fireworks won the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival.

— B Ruby Rich

Screening Details

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