Review for His Motorbike Her Island
Ko Hashimoto rides motorbikes for a living, as a courier between reporters and a newsroom, but he also rides them for fun, as member of a gang. His life revolves around the freedom that bikes give him. Which is useful as he needs to get away for a while following a duel with his gang leader over his girlfriend, the leader’s sister Fuyumi. Fuyumi is a little too strait-laced for Ko, but once he’s away into the country, he encounters a free spirit named Miiyo, a girl who invites him to her island home for a festival. Miiyo likes bikes too, maybe even more than Ko, and she wants to learn to ride big bikes like Ko’s Kawasaki. And she turns out to be a prodigy, learning fast. But her love of bikes and a love of power could be a lethal combination.
His Motorbike Her Island comes with a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, although the film begins in a small monochrome box in the centre of the screen before opening out to the full frame. It also alternates between monochrome and colour, and some blend of the two as the story unfolds. The image is clear enough, with a nice level of grain, and offering much in the way of detail. Of the four films in this collection, it also has the best contrast, which given that much of it is set at night, is a good thing. The audio is in DTS-HD MA 2.0 Japanese format, and given that I heard some separation in the music, I do believe it is stereo. The dialogue is clear and the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. The music feels very retro and nostalgic, which coupled with the story, gave me a West Side Story/Rebel Without a Cause vibe.
The disc boots to an animated menu, and you’ll find the following extras.
Tom Mes Commentary
Director Nobuhiko Obayashi Interview (15:42)
Talk about saving the best to last. His Motorbike Her Island is the film that I enjoyed the most out of this collection, an edgy, yet dreamy romance that has a dreamlike, hypnotic feel to it. Obayashi indulges his quirky creativity once more, but this time in a way that held my attention rather than distanced me from it. The character of Ko Hashimoto narrates the film, although early on he states that he always dreams in monochrome. Obayashi runs with the idea, switching from colour to monochrome at a whim during the film, sometimes even blending the formats in a frame, which makes Hashimoto an unreliable narrator, and enhancing the fantastic nature of the story.
As you might expect, this film is a celebration of biker counter-culture, a window on that fine line between freedom and anarchy that such archetypal road warriors ride. His Motorbike Her Island has more of a romantic perspective, given that it is a love story. There is still some violence, action, and rebellion against the status quo, and sometimes from the unlikeliest of characters. But the overall tone of the movie is one that’s more uplifting and hopeful rather than nihilistic and downbeat as many such films in this genre are.
It’s all about Hashimoto’s search for freedom, and freedom as embodied in a woman. The film starts at the end of his relationship with Fuyumi, sister to the leader of his gang. He accuses Hashimoto of dishonouring Fuyumi, loving and leaving her, but Fuyumi’s initial fascination with bikes and bikers (something her brother disapproved of), turns into something ephemeral; just a fad. And in the end, Fuyumi is a little too staid and conventional for Hashimoto.
When he meets Miiyo however, he encounters a free spirit, someone totally bohemian, and who might just like bikes more than he does. Her fascination with riding certainly isn’t a passing fancy, and in the end, Hashimoto has his own preconceptions about freedom, and about a woman’s place in his life questioned.
His Motorbike Her Island manages to hit all the right notes with me. It has a decent story, and characters that I can invest in. Moreover Nobuhiko Obayashi’s style works well with the subject matter to enhance the film’s appeal. Going by the seven films of his that Third Window Films have brought out in the UK, he’s a hit or miss director for me. Thankfully this is one the hits.
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