I finally learned how to take screenshots and I'm very excited. There are films that are so visually stunning it only makes sense to share them in pictures. One of them is Hana and Alice, a coming-of-age film about best friends by acclaimed Japanese director Shunji Iwai. The cinematography and use of natural light is so gorgeous in this movie that I had to stop myself from taking a screenshot of almost every frame.
While the film may be a quiet long and the story of 2 girls and a boy is somewhat trite, it works because there's a lot of subtle emotional beats that allows us to connect with the characters and their inner lives. Like how Hana and Alice would unconsciously start doing small ballet steps while waiting for the train, the deck of cards with Alice in Wonderland pictures at the back, the photo session that they had at their ballet class, Hana's tearful backstage confession while Masa was tying her obi belt. All done so tenderly it warms your heart.
This movie also gave me one of my favorite cinematic scenes to date -- a 5-minute ballet sequence towards the end of the film. Everything about this scene is almost perfect, from the music (composed by Shunji Iwai himself), the slow-motion turns, the dreamy light streaming from the windows, the hardwood floors, her arabesque...I could ramble on and on. But the thing that really touched me is that this was Alice's moment for herself and hers alone. Even though she is the more outgoing and lively of the two, Alice lacks self-confidence and is a bit passive. So when she just went for it in this audition, even improvising with shoes made of plastic cups, you can't help but hold your breath and cheer her on. Have a look at this video clip.
P.S. If you can get a hold of the DVD, be sure to check out their Behind the Scenes feature. Its shows how the film was made and how the story was conceptualized.