Well the festival has come to an end and overall, I was very impressed with this year’s movies. After a busy two weeks, I give you the short reviews for the final four movies I was lucky enough to see.
- Chronicle of my Mother
Based on the autobiographical novel by the late Japanese author Yasushi Inoue, this meandering but moving film tells the story of Kosaku, a successful author who was abandoned as a child by his mother to the care of his grandfather’s mistress. His ailing mother is descending into senility and the film charts her journey as well Kosaku’s filial devotion while being quite dictatorial with his own family, including the persistent grandchild Kotoko. It is she who is the catalyst for the son’s eventually understanding of his mother’s actions. While beautifully photographed, the story was happy to move along at its own pace which is slow to say the least. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely story and I am rating it
Just to prove that I do not know what I am talking about, I did not like this movie despite it winning a multitude of awards. Sadazo and Matsuyama are enlisted sailors on a cleaning crew in World War Two. Before being sent to the Philippines, Sadazo asks Matsuyama to return the postcard his wife sent him to her and let her know of his love for her. The movie then shifts to the wife, Tomoko, and her quite depressing tribulations in the countryside. I am not sure what it was that I did not like about this film but as soon as we moved to focus on Tomoko, I was getting depressed with her misfortunes and her passive acceptance of them. Suffice to say that Matsuyama returns the postcard, and after finding out that his own wife took off with his father, decides to stay with Tomoko and live a simple life in the hills. People with more talent than me award this film some great accolades so please check it out for yourself, but for me, I can only give it
- Bread of Happiness
After “Postcard”, I needed something uplifting and this film definitely fit the bill. Rie, the gorgeous Tomoyo Harada, and Sang, Yo Oizumi, have retired from bustling Tokyo to open a cafe in Lake Toya, Hokkaido to live a simpler and deeper life. Baking bread and brewing coffee with zen-like deliberation, these two messengers of compassion try to give their guests and customers some sense of peace while they are in their humble little cafe. The movie is basically broken up into three parts, each dealing with the different guests who frequent Cafe Mani. For those who believe that anything can be fixed with a sweetbread and strong coffee, you will love this movie. For those who can take it or leave it, but love a nice story of people caring for each other, please go and watch this movie. I left with a smile on my face and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart.
- A Terminal Trust
The penultimate film of the festival and the final one on my wish list, this movie was a constant, in your face film about euthanasia and its legal ramifications on the doctor involved. Reuniting the stars of “Shall We Dance?”, the film begins with Dr Orii (Tamiyo Kusakari) fronting up to the Prosecutors Office to answer questions before flashing back to her patient, Egi Shinzo (Koji Yakusho) who has chronic asthma. We see Dr Orii discover her lover betraying her as well as her becoming closer to Egi-san and finally coming to the point where she is willing to assist in his passing when there is no hope left. The particular scene where that occurs is pretty harrowing and then the film shifts back to the prosecutor’s office where we see the Japanese justice system at its finest (firmly tongue on cheek). We were lucky enough to have a Q & A session with the Director, Masayuki Suo as well as his lead actress, Tamiyo Kusakuri after the film and they explained that the bullying behaviour we saw at the end by the Prosecutor is pretty standard in Japan. Unfortunately, there were only 5 questions allowed and despite having my hand up to ask a question, we ran out of time.
So that’s it, the end of the 16th Japanese Film Festival in Sydney. The films now make their way to Melbourne and the rest of the country. The highlights were probably “Bunny Drop” and “Crossroads” while the obvious disappointment was the continued technical difficulties surrounding “Dearest”. I should explain that despite “Bunny Drop” only scoring 7.5/10, it was such an enjoyable movie that it deserved to be listed as a highlight. To be honest, all the movies I saw were pretty good, even “Postcard” and “Key of Life” despite my reviews here.