DIRECTOR: JUN ICHIKAWA
COUNTRY: JAPAN 1997
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Tatsuhiko Kobayashi
MUSIC: Kazuto Shimizu
CAST: Kyozo Nagatsuka, Mitsuko Baisho, Takaya Kamiwaka, Koba Hayashi, Reiko Nanao, Kaori Momoi
SUPER FEATURES: The acting is very fine...a Japanese Mike Leigh?
One wonders, why this film has won such rave reviews at the Montreal Film Festival. Like the title suggests, this is
not exactly a film that helps audiences stay awake, and appreciate throughout.
Perhaps it is that this film, has an unusual nature. It is not exactly a story in the sense that we are used to see
films. yes, the story is there, but like a Jean-Luc Godard, or Jacques Rivette (whom the film seems to be closer to),
there are visual stops every so often, that suggest a sedate, and quiet society, that is either "defeated" to its
culture, or is trying to find its way out of its own doldrums.
The loose story, centers around the Osawa Tea Room, where these characters come and go various times. Koichi left
several years before, and left behind a wife and child. His wife greets him coldly. His ex-lover, now the cook, and
apparently manager of the Tea Room, seems to be a bit concerned with his attitude, and his ways.
The film, does not exactly clear up this story, any more than that, although there are many discussions and running
commentaries regarding him and his affairs, and these always stop at the "editorial" stages of the conversations.
Meaning that we can only get the general information regarding Koichi, and not much else. He does repay his debts to
his family and the ex-wife by taking the father's lousy business venture, into one that is more modern, and up to
date. And this is the only moment when the film speeds up a little from its generally slow going.
The acting in this film, is actually very fine, and totaly diferent from the usual styles that many japanese films
suggest. One is inclined to think of this director as one that is looking for more characterization in the
actor/actress, than he is in the film itself. But the sedate, and quiet life that Koichi was a part of, is terribly
far from what he obviously has left behind, and wants to forget, although he knows that he owes it something, but
never says it.
By making sure that the characters do not discuss their feelings, this film adds to its own mystery, and in many ways
makes it interesting, but it does not help pick up the pace, or the feeling the film generates, which is, like the
title suggests, a lullaby ... make sure that you have some strong coffee before hand.
Shot in very simplistic styles, there is nothign fancy or clever inthis film, it is all up to the actors to deliver,
in a work that may be better suited for an evening at the theater, than at the cinema. While this is not a great film,
or a very enjoyable one at that, it is at least watchable, and worth while, specially, if the intent is to look for a
characterization in the actors, where the past traditions have been so formal, as the society has been. In this sense,
this is a magnificent film.
Please email me with questions and/or comments
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