Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

"You're still waiting." 
-Cate Wilson, wife of the late Parker Wilson. Remember that line because you will cry.-

I'm basically a dog lover.  Look no further than my affection for Cujo or my coverage of Battle Of The Planets: Orion Wonderdog Of Space.or my special attention to Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 13, One Of Our Dogs Is Missing.  Let's face it, normally you're either a cat lover or a dog lover.  I don't hate cats.  Cats are nice enough, but I connect with dogs on an emotional level whereby cats just leave me cold.  That's me.  If cats are emotional and I'm sure they are, I just don't connect with them on that level.  That's all.  That's why I'm a dog guy.  And that's why there will be no reviews of Catwoman (2004), The Cat From Outer Space (1978) or Cat People (1942/ 1982) here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic.  I'll leave the cat coverage to another blogger.

Sometimes I need to just shut down and check out from all things science fiction now and again, not because I tire of it because I really don't, but because I simply start juggling so many writing ideas in my head I get paralyzed.  I'm juggling so many sci-fi reflections, photos and ideas at the moment that I just need to get focused.  Thus watching something outside of the genre always seems like a good idea.  That way I won't write about it, right?  Of course not.  You would think, but I can't help myself.  So here I am writing a short take about director Lasse Hallstrom's Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009) starring Richard Gere and based on a true story.

I can't just watch a film and leave it alone.  I even tried doing Words For Friends and surf the web, but I got sucked in and felt compelled to write about this gut-wrenching but beautiful film. It's a sickness I tell you.  Based on the evidence are you surprised I would own such a film?

Hallstrom really doesn't get his due.  The man can weave a tale, adapt a book, and/or just tell a strong story centered on humanity.  With so many excellent human interest stories Hallstrom still seems to bubble under the radar.

How ironic the man who delivered the beautiful and affecting coming-of-age tale My Life As A Dog (1985) should come nearly full circle to one of his earliest best with Hachi: A Dog's Tale.  And it really is about this dog, a faithful Akita Inu, and his oddly human connection to one man.  My Life As A Dog has been a perennial favorite of mine for decades.  It's a an affecting sweet little film and once again there's that analogy to (my) life as a dog.  It's definitely in the blood.

This time Hallstrom genuinely focuses on a dog love story even giving us black and white dog's eye view shots.  The film is essentially based on the life of Hachiko and Hallstrom's film is a remake of a 1987 Japanese film of the same name that echoes that simple, sweet story and events which took place between 1924-1934 essentially a dog's short life.

The film about this dog didn't unfold quite as I expected and I don't want to give too much away, but straight up, it is the story of a loyal Akita and how he responds following the death of its master.  Each and every day the dog waits for his master to return from work at the Shibuya train station.  Hachi does this for nine years.  I'll say only that and that a statue of Hachi sits at that train station in Japan today.  It is one of the most visited places in Japan.  But beyond the deceptively simple premise, Hallstrom develops the emotional complexity of the dog.

Anyone who loves dogs knows of their loyalty and their companionship and if you have had that experience you shouldn't miss this film.  If you have a soft spot for these kinds of stories your heart will just melt.  Get a box of tissues ladies.  I'm a big softie and I had difficulty pulling it together for the denouement of this film.  I mean, I really wept quietly. I watched it alone primarily because everyone else in my family had already seen it.  I just welled up with a giant old knot in my throat.  The film will simply kill you.

The picture was shot almost entirely in Rhode Island.  It was filmed in Bristol, Woonsocket and at the Unversity Of Rhode Island.  A bronze statue was erected in Hachi's honor in Woonsocket as a kind of sister city to the one established in Shibuya Japan.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale is another exceptional film in the Hallstrom catalogue, but this one really is about Hachi's life as a dog.  This is a quiet, simple, but beautiful film that is expressed mostly on a visual level building to a natural emotional response.  There are scenes that are more profound upon a second viewing.  There is an acuity to Hachi that is missed the first time around.  You will understand what I mean seeing it again.

The film is also not exclusively a family-based drama of heartwarming love because of this thread throughout the film that accentuates pure heartbreak and the yearning of someone lost that we love.  This is where Hachi differentiates itself as a picture of both sweet love and sweet pain.  The film wisely paints a portrait through action of the heart and less the spoken word and it's all the more moving for it. It is underscored by the gorgeous score of Jan A. P. Kaczmarek which captures a delicate piano theme to represent Hachi throughout the movie.  It's an especially moving movie at that as it pays tribute to the strength of a dog named Hachi.  Like the great little spirit of that Russian dog, Laika, Hallstrom alludes to in his own My Life As A Dog, Hachi symbolizes all of the great attributes of which humanity aspires.  So many of us yearn to be this good, this loyal, this dogged in our love for a companion.  So many of us fail.  Hachi represents the very best of humanity which says something about the much deserved praise of a dog as man's best friend.

This culminates and is reflected in a scene between Hachi and the widower of Hachi's savior.  Hachi holds a mirror up to us by embodying the best of us. We connect and empathize with Hachi's own heartbreak because his tenacious love represents the best of humanity.  He is a symbol of what is often missing from our hearts.  The unselfish and focused love of a companion is on full display.  Hallstrom builds this intellect and heart into his picture with a much deeper resonance than most allow.  Don't be bashful about knowing too much.  This is an emotional experience.  We can only dream of experiencing a bond this special in our lifetimes and if you have one - can you recognize it?

Hachi: A Dog's Tale: A.
Writer: Stephen P. Lindsey.
Director: Lasse Hallstrom.


le0pard13 said...

I've definitely heard of this film. As one who started out a 'cat person', raised with them and had some when I was on my own (and later when married), I was more than comfortable with felines. Then, it was time to get a dog, and I haven't looked back.

That connection is something quite special. I still get along very well with almost every cat I've come upon, but a dog has a quality, a loyalty, that grabs your heart. And perhaps that's why I haven't screened this film, as yet. I know what it has in store for me. I guess I need to prepare myself.

Wonderful, heartfelt review, G. Well done.

SFF said...

Maybe it's my allergies to cats, but I tend not to get too close to them myself.

But, yeah, you know what I speak of.

Prepare yourself indeed my friend.

I have a very close connection with my Scottish Terrier. She is extremely loyal. Just a great dog. I'm definitely one of the lucky ones. They are just terrific companions.

Hachi will sleigh you.
Thanks pal.

Unknown said...

Hey man,

Long time no comment. :)

I think I'm about halfways between dog and cat person, but never owned a dog and the family had several cats so a slight tilt towards felines here.

I haven't seen the movie you're writing about, but I was aware of the story because of something slightly more sci-fiy: The Futurama episode Jurassic Bark, which at least in part is based on the same story. And being a big softie myself, I cry like a woman when Fry thinks that Seymor forgot about him a long time ago, and then we see the dog loyally waiting for him for the remainder of his days...

Sorry, I think somebody is cutting onions here, gotta go. ;)

Unknown said...

(I probably posted as Havremunken in the old times, just in case you're wondering what in space I'm talking about)

SFF said...

Hey Rune! Awesome to see you!
Always like to hear from you and know that you are doing AOK!

I have definitely gotta download that Futurama episode! Sounds like a classic.

Well, now you know all of the background on that episode and historically where its source material comes from - a little old story from the 1920s to the 1930s in Japan. Wuite a powerful story it is my friend.

Trust me. Find it. Watch it with your little one and you won't need onions. Its more likely to make the big softies the basketcases too and less so the kids. : )

All the best. Talk with you again down the road.