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Hachi: A Dog's Tale
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From Academy Award®-nominated director Lasse Hallström (2000, The Cider House Rules) comes HACHI: A DOG’S TALE, a film based on one of the most treasured and heartwarming true stories ever told. Golden Globe winner Richard Gere (2002, Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, Chicago) stars as Professor Parker Wilson, a distinguished scholar who discovers a lost Akita puppy on his way home from work. Despite initial objections from Wilson’s wife, Cate (Academy Award® nominee Joan Allen – 2000, Best Actress, The Contender), Hachi endears himself into the Wilson family and grows to be Parker's loyal companion. As their bond grows deeper, a beautiful relationship unfolds embodying the true spirit of family and loyalty, while inspiring the hearts of an entire town.
Based on a true story from Japan, Hachi: A Dog's Tale is a moving film about loyalty and the rare, invincible bonds that occasionally form almost instantaneously in the most unlikely places. College professor Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) finds a young Akita puppy that's been abandoned at the local train station, and he's instantly captivated by the dog. Assuming the dog's owner will return to the train station to claim him in the morning, Parker takes the puppy home overnight. But when no one comes to get the dog, Parker convinces his wife, Cate (Joan Allen), to welcome him as part of the family. He dubs the puppy Hachiko--Hachi, for short--because of the Japanese symbol for good luck that's hanging from his collar. Hachi is a somewhat peculiar dog that refuses to learn to fetch or master other people-pleasing tricks, but he is a faithful companion and friend to Parker, alerting him of potential dangers and accompanying him to the train station each morning and meeting him there after his return trip each evening. An unforeseen event will continually test Hachi's devotion. This film is neither overwrought nor sappy; it is heartfelt and immensely powerful despite its tendency to drag in a few places. Prepare to be moved to tears by this beautiful, seemingly simple film--it's about so much more than just the relationship between a man and his dog. --Tami Horiuchi
A Bond of Loyalty - The Making of Hachi: A Dog's Tale
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I'd actually heard the story many times. A loyal dog returns to train station to meet his master even after he dies. But the film really brings the point home following the entire life span of the dog. But what I feel makes this film stand out is how it shows the perspective of the dog, a great reminder that "Hachi" is the protagonist in the film and giving insight into the emotions he felt. Additionally, the dog was portrayed as a dog, not a human character in a dog suit capable of impossible feats and acts, which for me, made the story so much more enjoyable and made the dog so much more believable.
Please disregard the one-star rating given by the Akita breeder in Nevada who didn't really rate the film so much as criticize peoples tendency to purchase dogs because of movie influences. It should also be noted that the Japanese Akita as a breed would have most likely disappeared had it not been for the original Hachi's popularity in Japan during the 1930's when the story was popularized by local newspapers of the time.
I would rate this as probably the best dog movie ever to come out of Hollywood. If you've made it so far as to read reviews, you really should just buy it. I can't imagine any dog lover being disappointed in this magnificent film.
It is a movie that works on many levels. For its purely sentimental plot about a dog who never gave up loving his master, it conveys the story effectively such that any child can enjoy. (And the plot is framed by the telling of the young boy who has grown up hearing the story, and now is telling it to his classmates at school.) This is where its charm as a true dog story is unparalleled.
On another level, it is a re-make of the Japanese film (1987) entitled Hachiko Monogatari, which is based more literally upon the life of the original Hachi-Ko. The Japanese film interprets his life story as a morality tale, in sombre tones of reproach for all the failures of human actors who fail Hachi in some way. The American re-make inverts the dark tone, translating it into a kinder, gentler tale. Love abounds in the life of this dog. Half of the film depicts the joyous companionship of the music professor and his dog. The professor and his wife enjoy a happy, loving marriage, and secondary characters are also portrayed in warm tones.
An interesting technique is to visualize Hachi’s perspective towards humans in nearly colorless images, whereas the human perspective contrasts in full color. We see Hachi lying in his back yard while the professor’s wife tends to her garden. Hachi watches her. He rolls over onto his side, seeing her image with gravity on one side. Then rolls onto his back, seeing her completely upside down. Is this just to drive home the issue of contrasting viewpoints as it relates to the morality of this tale? Or is it also to reveal how an uncritical mind accepts reality, as Hachi sees it, and not just as a human mind expects to see it?
There is a critical scene at the center of the movie, where a Japanese guru-figure reads briefly at the graveside, speaking of a philosophy of unconditional love and unconditional acceptance. I cannot help but see the morality of this film in the context of this scene, which is probably too fleeting (my only criticism of the film). Hachi accepts unconditionally what his master can give to him, limited as it has to be; he sees life just as it is. But Hachi loves totally and gives himself without limitation. The professor too accepts Hachi’s unwillingness to play fetch, no matter how much he wishes for his dog to make him happy in this token way — until the final day, when Hachi seems to have forewarning of his master’s death, and he begs him to stay home and cavorts with him, fetching ball for the first and only time. When the professor falls in an apparent heart attack, he drops that ball he has been holding.
At this deeper level, in my understanding of the story, there is again the failing of secondary human characters to fully engage Hachi, in the unconditional terms portrayed in the relationship of Hachi and his master. After her father’s death, the professor’s daughter sincerely offers Hachi a home, but she cannot fulfill her commitment completely. Her family has to come first. At least she has the understanding to give Hachi her permission to leave, to live on the streets, free to live out his own imperative. And so do others, allowing Hachi to do what he has to do. The shift of seasons through the years, the flow of life, passes gently. Only the hotdog stand owner comes close to standing by his promise to look after the dog as Hachi pursues his lonely life, waiting. So Hachi waits, for 10 years, and only in his final moments of transcendental imagination experiences his reunion with the man whom he has always loved and will always love.
It is easy for me to transpose Hachi’s morality tale to my own life. I have never lived with a dog, but with many cats. The meaning is the same. Animals are capable of an unconditional love which humans find difficult to emulate. We can only go so far in devoting our lives to them, as they devote themselves to us. It is with that knowledge, and that ultimate regret, that I will leave the rest unspoken.
I'm actually surprised that people have wanted to buy or adopt Akitas specifically after watching this. It never occurred to me to focus on that breed. It does, however, make me want to adopt a dog. There are so many other breeds, and even mongrels, who are just as sweet and loyal. Tons of rescued animals need homes. I've even had a cat that was about as Hachi-like as a cat could be. Please help an animal--any animal.
The actors aren't the dominant part of the film--the dog is. In order to write a script that accomplishes that--something that isn't done often--it's necessary to diminish the roles of the actors in order to strengthen the presence of the animal. When all is said and done, all of the humans in the film are supporting actors, and that's how it should be--but we shouldn't judge the acting or the script based on our expectations based on the standard human-based script. This film works on many different levels, but if you want to enjoy it, leave behind some of your expectations of what a film should be.
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thanks Richaard Gere