H Story

Only devotees of Japanese auteur Nobuhiro Suwa's very particular cinema will be interested in "H Story," and that means a tiny cult audience and, probably, little exposure outside the fest circuit. Pic deals with French actress, on location in Hiroshima, who has an affair with a married Japanese man.

Beatrice Dalle

Audiences with fond memories of “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (1959), the seminal French film about memory and guilt, which was written by Marguerite Duras and directed by Alain Resnais, probably won’t be too impressed by maverick Japanese auteur Nobuhiro Suwa’s film about the production of a remake of Resnais’ masterpiece. And audiences who’ve never seen “Hiroshima” will derive absolutely nothing from this film. Accordingly, only devotees of Suwa’s very particular cinema will be interested in “H Story,” and that means a tiny cult audience and, probably, little exposure outside the fest circuit.

Suwa, whose 1999 pic “M/Other” was the FIPRESCI winner at Cannes, has come up with what will, for many, be an irritating approach to the material. He plays himself, a director who has decided to remake “Hiroshima Mon Amour” and has cast French actress Beatrice Dalle in the leading role. Dalle’s pouty, sensual persona is so wildly different in style from that of the actress, Emmanuelle Riva, who played the role originally that it’s clear Suwa has another agenda altogether.

Although the film bears no writer credit and was apparently largely improvised, there are also sections that seem to be passages of the Duras screenplay , which consisted of very poetic, beautiful dialogue, often based on repetitions.

Dalle, in the new film, objects to making a carbon copy of the original , which dealt with a French actress, on location in Hiroshima , who has an affair with a married Japanese man. This affair triggered memories of her affair with a German during the war. None of this comes across in Suwa’s very precious film, nor is there any attempt to address the near-revolutionary editing technique employed by Resnais (and much imitated afterward) to reflect the fragmented memories of his protagonist.

All we get here are scenes of Dalle forgetting her lines, while the director, through an interpreter, patiently talks her through her problems. She also starts spending time with a writer (Kou Machida), ending up, in the film’s final scene, in the A-Bomb Dome, the very center of Hiroshima.

It’s a little difficult to see just what Suwa was hoping to achieve with this film, and certainly little of interest emerges. As a tricky post-modern deconstruction of the original, it’s notably lacking in any of the qualities of the earlier work.

Given almost no possibility of establishing a character, Dalle simply drifts through the film, and none of the other characters really register. In the end, “H Story” is a singularly hollow exercise.

H Story


  • Production: A Dentsu-Imagica-Suncent CinemaWorks-Tokyo Theaters presentation of a Suncent CinemaWorks production of a J-Works Film. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Takenori Sento. Directed by Nobuhiro Suwa.
  • Crew: Camera, Caroline Champetier; editors, Suwa, Yuji Oshige; music, Haruyuki Suzuki; production designer, China Hayashi; sound (Dolby), Nobuyuki Kikuchi. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 15, 2001. Running time: 112 MIN.
  • With: The Actress - Beatrice Dalle The Writer - Kou Machida The Actor - Hiroaki Umano Himself - Nobuhiro Suwa Herself - Caroline Champetier Herself - Michiko Yoshitake Herself - Motoko Suhama
  • Music By: