Between 12 June and 19 June we saw three different films, each delightful in its own way. A few thoughts...
is a film that quickly takes you from what you image might be a comic situation into a deeply moving story. The young man, a cellist in Tokyo, soon looses his job, and moves back to his home town. His mother is dead, and his father is long gone, having left the family some time ago. (Indeed, if there is any thread that binds these films together, it is the unwitting thread of fatherhood). Thinking that he is applying for a job in the travel industry (the ad reads "Departures", he soon finds himself working for a man who ritually prepares the dead for burial. The comedy of the situation quickly dissipates, and one begins to see that he has exchanged one art for another. It is only the artist that appreciates the commonality, however, as the young man fights stereotypes, class, and fear, as his wife, friends, and society in general react to his new art. This is a delightful and moving film.
is just fun. We saw this film in the most perfect of theaters for this kind of thing, The Castro, in San Francisco. The audience was as up as the film. The 3-D is relatively convincing, and the digital animation, and story-scapes are wonderful. It was good to see an Asian hero, and even greater to see him find a surrogate Dad in the crusty and elderly adventurer that leads him on this journey of forgotten promises and hopes. One person commented on the delightful development of "cartoons" that adults can be attracted to. There's enough stuff for the "kid" in us, but there is also adventure, wonderful puns, both visual and aural, and character development. This is a film of such optimism and hope that I wonder if it could even have been made three to four years ago. Lucky for us it was - so go see it.
This is the main course of this review of three films. It is meaty and stimulating. It is a Copolla film, deeply textured with symbols and scenes of importance. The photography, most of it black and white is stunning. Interestingly, the scenes from the present are in black and white, while the scenes of the past are in color - the present only partly known, the past fully known. Like Godfather III, the film is centered on a cultural event (Cavalaria Rusticana) - actually a couple of them (Copelia, and the Tales of Hoffman), and so we enjoy ballet, theater, some cinema, and writing in the course of the story.
The story is about families. What keeps them together is the pursuit of the film-maker and the audience. One of the characters opines that it is "rivalry." There is more, however. There is a bit of Chinatown in this film, but I don't want to give the ending away. And with Carmen Maura's presence, there is an unmistakable taste of Almodóvar in place. The ballet scenes are reminiscent of the Pina Bauch pieces in Talk to Her. The writing as well, has a touch of humor and irreverance that smacks of Almodóvar.
Who do we love? How do we love them? Must we love? What is the essence of familial relationships? All of these themes have been explored by Copolla in his other films, but here there is something that is personal and touching. Vincent Gallo, Maribel Verdú, Alden Ehrenreich, and Carmen Maura all give inciteful performances, and although the symbolism is palpable, the experience for the audience is straight from life and recognizable. Usually movies about fathers and sons, and their ultimate reunions, reduce me to tears. Although this film touches on deeply personal themes for me, I didn't cry. I was too stunned.
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