Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Okuribito (Departures) – *

Posted: September 14, 2017 in 2008, Drama, Japan, X

Hm. This won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language movie over Entre Les Murs, the best movie of this century. Un.Be.Lie.Va.Ble! It’s so incredibly boring, I assume none of the voters actually watched it and just read the synopsis and watched the trailer.

Yes, it’s beautifully filmed. And yes, the main actor performs well. But the story just isn’t all that much. A cello player quits his job and moves to his home town, where he finds a job as a caretaker for the deceased. Hence, the title ‘departures’. It’s a job that nobody wants and that is frowned upon. But when done right, the loved ones of the deceased are grateful for the care. Thanks to the job he comes to turns with the departures in his life.

Poetic? Maybe. Boring? Yes.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1069238

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Long Distance Flight movie #1 – Discovery of the return flight movie marathon!

Watching To Each His Own only makes sense after visiting Japan and wondering why commuters look very robotic in the morning, but seem jolly after work. It does give you an insight of how strenuous life must be in this fascinating country full of contrasts. The movie is based on a bestselling novel that tackled the Japanese society and its damaging ambition of always wanting to perform perfectly and hiding true feelings of happiness at work. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. And their office stress is notorious all. However, during visits of Tokyo or Kyoto, one can only see how much laughter is heard at the end of the day and how friendly everyone is. It’s true, the view in the evening is very conflicting with the look in the morning when the entire commuter train is staring at their smartphones and emotionless office clerks march over crossroads like a computerised army of similar looking ants. But it can’t be that bad as in this movie, can it?

As an outsider it’s difficult to judge the authenticity of the depiction of office life in this intriguing drama. Life in the working place of protagonist Attachi is hell. In a western movie the scenes would work as a parody. The exaggerated reactions of the tyrannical boss are quite funny. Until this movies turns out to be a drama and not a comedy at all. Attachi is so fed up with his life that he wants to commit suicide, but he is saved by a young man who claims to have gone to the same elementary school together. Attachi can’t remember the guy and thinks it’s fishy. Is this a gay stalker? (Yes, there are two unnecessarily homophobic scenes in this movie) Is it a scam? Yet, each encounter makes him more confident and happier and makes him re-think life.

It’s a good movie. It’s intriguing because it’s set in a society that is different from elsewhere in the world. This obedience and constant apologetic behaviour feels awkward after a while. But the end is quite remarkable. When we get to learn who this mysterious stranger is.

Oh and the makers added scenes of Vanuatu (the happiest nation in the world), which gives this movie an extra *.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5922578

Long Distance Flight movie #3

Not sure if the humour of What A Wonderful Family is typical for Japan, but it’s quite universal. This movie is a sequel, but is easily enjoyed without seeing the first episode.

After a visit of Japan, where you constantly see friends or couples or groups of people laugh out loud during conversations, you wonder what they are laughing about. Apparently – according to an article on the subject – words of play and sadism are quite popular; sarcasm and irony not so much. And just plain slapstick. There is a little of everything in this comedy. It’s quite funny, recognisable even.

The comedy focuses on a family of Mr Shuzo, who is in his seventies and lives with his culturally independent wife; his ambitious, money making oldest son; his obedient daughter in law and his two teenage grandsons under the same roof. It’s not easy. Three generations is too much. His oldest, career daughter has married a cheap, but cheerful coward. And his youngest, sensitive son is dating an equally caring nurse. All of them interfere with his behaviour. All of them want him to turn in his driver license. But he loves his independence and wants to proof he is still very vital. He even courts the woman who runs the bar he goes to with his drinking buddies.

There are a lot of funny moments, even though a lot of them involve the toilet or intergender issues. Things change a little more to the dramatic when he meets an old school buddy who ends up dying two thirds into the movie, but then the humour picks up again and becomes quite morbid.

It’s a gentle comedy for he large crowds, appealing to the seniors and anyone who loves or works with an age group over 70.

It’s not all humour though, like that one scene where someone explains why some broken relationships can be fixed and others can’t.  A comparison is made with threads. If they are gradually woven, they can be put together once they loosen up by age. If they were put together in a mess, they need to be cut to entangle and can’t be mend.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5934564

追憶 Tsuioku (Reminiscence) – *(*)

Posted: September 13, 2017 in 2017, Drama, Japan, X1/2

Long Distance Flight movie #4

A law officer is confronted with his past when he meets an old childhood friend at a diner. The encounter troubles him, because it reminds him of the time he grew up in an orphanage and was an accomplice to a brutal murder by the woman who took care of him. Things become even more confusing when the friend is found dead, murdered.

The synopsis sounds like it’s a good mystery thriller, but it’s not. The investigation isn’t the major focus of the movie (in fact, the murder case is solved in a one minute scene during a phone call – what a disappointment). It’s the emotional baggage of the main character that explains a lot of his evasive behaviour. So, yeah, more of a boring psychological drama really. But with some good acting. And great cinematography.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5570680

 

The Red Turtle – **(*)

Posted: February 10, 2017 in 2016, Animation, Belgium, Drama, Japan, XX1/2

Wouldn’t it be cool is this movie won the Oscar for best animation movie? Everyone expected Finding Dory to be a contender, but this artsy, non commercial French/Belgian/Japanese co-production took the place of the animation blockbuster of the year.

Finding Dory it is NOT. It’s a beautiful animated tale of a man who strands on a deserted island, can’t leave because a giant turtle keeps breaking the rafts he builds. Until that turtle comes ashore and he takes his revenge. But the revenge changes his life on the island.

You don’t need to know more. Don’t watch the trailer either.

It looks like a moving European (Franco-Belge) comic book. The drawings are exceptional. The use of color and light and shadows and details is astonishing. The movement itself isn’t as stiff as you’d imagine from a hand-drawn animation movie. It’s actually quite smooth. It’s not annoying at all. But the story isn’t all that much.A lot of things happen to keep the movie going, but it’s not as poetic or deep as you might expect.

It’s looking at incredibly well animated shots of life on a deserted island with sunsets that you’ll never forget. And without the end credits it’s only 75 minutes long.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3666024

A Japanese woman abandons her four children to go live with a man somewhere far away. She comes back from time to time, but very irregularly. They all live in a small apartment and the oldest boy, who is twelve, is in charge. He did get some cash from his mother, but when she stays away for months in a row he runs out of money. He doesn’t want to report it to the police or the social service, because a similar situation in the past placed all kids with other families. He may just be a kid, but he does feel responsible for keeping his family together. They don’t go to school and he’s the only one who can leave the apartment. He tries to create a social life outside of his duties, but it’s hard.

This is not a fictional story, but based on true events taking place in the end of the eighties. The reality was much worse than what you get to see in this mainstream version. It’s still sad and depressing, but you do feel like a lot is not being told. Japanese culture is different from ours, but there are too many moments where the story just doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t really damage the movie. It’s the length of the scenes that almost kills it. In his new movie, Like Father Like Son, director Kore-eda tells a lot with simple shots. Here he just tells the same over and over again. If the movie had been cut short with an hour, it would have been better.

Disappointed.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0408664

the trailer with the American voice over is TERRIBLE.

Like Father, Like Son tells the story of a wealthy Japanese professional who discovers that the child he has been raising for the past six years isn’t his own. Suddenly ‘all makes sense’ to him, as he doesn’t find the same traits in his son as in himself. The kid, called Keita, is an adorable boy who tries his very best to please his mother and father, but who’s not a ‘winner’ or ‘fighter’ and in the eyes of his father rather ‘weak’. The wife/mother feel extremely guilty for never having noticed that she was taking care of someone else’s child. Their seemingly perfect life has gotten a huge blow. The hospital advisers set up a meeting between them and the other family, who are quite the opposite. Less educated, less wealthy, less serious. When it is suggested that they should swap the kids as soon as possible, they also react shocked, but in a very relaxed (Japanese?) way. It is a shitty situation, but what can they do?

It’s an interesting premise. I’m not quite sure if real people would react in a same way to this situation, but maybe they would in Japan, where the movie takes place. Who knows. In the end, it doesn’t matter.  Director Hirokazu Koreeda didn’t intend to film a documentary, he made a very moving and visually beautiful drama with great performances throughout and with some funny moments as well. It’s very well-edited. The soundtrack helps create an intimate atmosphere as well. And it tells the story with images rather than with endless dialogue. It’s a very accessible movie for a cinematic audience worldwide.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2331143