Few filmmakers capture coming-of-age in Japan as vividly as Shunji Iwai, whose previous feature, ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU, was a devastating portrait of 14-year-olds in the throes of a harrowing youth culture. Iwai takes a decidedly more lighthearted approach in his latest ode to adolescence, HANA & ALICE, where school seems a far less dreadful˜maybe even a tad rosy˜place for the titular teenagers. When tomboyish Alice points out her latest crush to coy friend Hana, she even encourages her to pursue his friend Mark. Reluctantly gazing at Mark from afar everyday, Hana gradually develops feelings for him; when Mark hits his head and passes out momentarily, she convinces him that he has amnesia, and that she‚s his girlfriend. Mark plays along until Hana embroils Alice into the scheme as his ex-girlfriend, only to find him falling for Alice instead. As they sort through their slightly confused dreams and memories and fumble along on their whimsical road to adulthood, Iwai reveals their incremental growth through delicately observed details of daily life˜authentically up-to-date dialogue, richly expressive gestures˜all in softly lit cinematography reminiscent of Monet paintings. Lucid in its observations yet tinged with the hue of nostalgia, HANA & ALICE offers an enchanting poem about that indescribable time when awakening minds are trying to catch up to bursting emotions. —Asian Media Wiki
The standard bearer of the 1990s new wave of Japanese film, Shunji Iwai cranked out some of that country’s hippest, hottest, and most popular movies. A self-styled eizo sakka, or visual artist, Iwai is a filmmaker equally at home directing commercials, TV dramas, rock videos, and feature length pictures. Though older critics have blasted his films for lacking depth and for borrowing from 1970s experimental auteur Shuji Terayama, Iwai understands that for an audience weaned on MTV, the image is the movie. Slick and oozing with style, his films consistently have an uncanny resonance with 1990s Japanese pop culture, making him one of the most important directors of his generation.
Born on January 24th, 1963, in the northern city of Sendai, Iwai started his filmmaking career in 1988 directing music videos and television dramas. Though he was already garnering considerable buzz by 1993 for his acclaimed one-hour late-night TV dramas Fried Dragon Fish and Uchiage Hanabi: Shita kara… read more
The audition scene where Alice ballet dances is one of my favourite scenes in all of cinema - the two bitchy girls in long wigs, the hopeful models, the photographer and his assistant and Alice dancing so beautifully. Perfection. The downside of this movie is the dopy boy who is the object of Hana's affections. So unbelievable. But Yu Aoi is just so luminously beautiful and talented she makes it more than worthwhile.