One of the most visually beautiful movies ever made, Maboroshi no Hikari (1995) is reality filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu’s impressive first foray into fictional storytelling. For Maboroshi, Kore-eda turns his documentary director’s eye on the rugged landscape of the Western Japanese coast, which serves as a starkly sublime backdrop for a tale of one young woman’s grievous loss and promise for spiritual renewal. The film draws on the traditions of Japan’s past directorial masters Ozu and Mizoguchi, but it’s also full of gorgeous moments that are purely Kore-eda’s own. Maboroshi no Hikari anticipates the director’s later narrative filmmaking masterpieces After Life and Nobody Knows, as well as featuring an early performance from international star Asano Tadanobu.
Twentysomething Yumiko (Esumi Makiko) and her husband Ikuo (Asano) live in a small, run-down apartment in Osaka with their infant son. The young couple seems content with their life, but when Ikuo inexplicably commits suicide, Yumiko’s entire world falls apart around her. Accepting an arranged marriage in a small fishing village on the Sea of Japan, Yumiko and her child attempt a fresh start. Although she soon comes to love the raw beauty of her new home, Yumiko remains haunted by the memory of Ikuo and the mystery surrounding his sudden death. (~YesAsia) Continue reading
Review from senses of cinema by Dan Harper :
A Tale of Springtime is, appropriately enough, the first of Rohmer’s “Tales of the Four Seasons”, and bears out its title with a portrayal of incipient love. It also reveals, somewhat playfully, how impossible it is to force love to conform to our designs. Jeanne is a high school philosophy teacher who meets Natacha at a party in Montmorency. Since neither of them knows anyone else at the party, they strike up a conversation.
Jeanne shares an apartment in Paris with her boyfriend, who is out of town. But he’s left the apartment in a shambles and Jeanne stays just long enough to take some clothes and two books with her – Plato and Kant. She then stops at her own apartment, but her cousin Gaelle is using it with her boyfriend, who is on furlough from the military. Continue reading
French director Alain Corneau delves into the painfully irrational world of office politics, which are further complicated by a severe case of culture clash in his 2003 comedy, Stupeur et Tremblements (Fear and Trembling). Based on the similarly titled memoirs of author Amélie Nothomb and her employment experiences with a Japanese mega-corporation, Fear and Trembling begins with Amélie (Sylvie Testud) landing in Tokyo shortly after receiving her college education. The young Belgian chose to return to Japan — where she spent the first five years of her life before her family relocated back to Europe — for her first job in an entry-level position with the Yumimoto Corporation. Amélie diligently accomplishes her daily tasks with invention and ambition, but her work ethic proves threatening to her immediate supervisors who single her out as a deviant within the corporation’s firmly entrenched power hierarchy. As she is led through a series of humiliations and demotions designed to destroy her individuality, Amélie is forced to submit to an endless stream of unreasonable demands issued by nearly every supervisor with seniority over her. Determined to complete her one-year contract with the company in spite of the vicious power struggles, Amélie wages a kind of culture war from her irreversible position as lowest rung on the power ladder. Continue reading
Ada was settled in her life, she was pleased with it, or thought she was. She was one half of a couple who seemed happy, she’d had a child, was even due to get married, and wham… she met Paul… And this Paul was writer to boot, who lived alone with his grown daughter, had an exceedingly intrusive mother, and had the unfortunate idea of losing his father when this story had hardly got off the ground… Life started to gather speed. It was about time. Continue reading
Enormously charming and affecting, “Not Here To Be Loved” tells the story of world weary Jean-Claude (Patrick Chesnais) who, tired of his thankless job as a bailiff, decides on a whim to shake himself out of his rut by enrolling for tango lessons. There he meets Françoise (Anne Consigny), who is learning to dance in preparation for her impending wedding. Recognising in each other a mutual longing for something more from life, Jean-Claude and Françoise put aside their natural reserve and a tentative friendship develops that may just turn their lives upside down. Played with great depth and subtlety by Chesnais and Consigny, Stephane Brizé s film is a tender and beautifully observed study of two people who have who have never quite learned to love or be loved. (amazon.com) Continue reading
An impressive, often powerful Iranian feature (1987, 95 min.) by Mohsen Makhmalbaf—who started out as an antishah activist and fiction writer—composed of three sketches dealing with the poor in Tehran (1987). The first, freely adapted from an Alberto Moravia story, follows the appalling misadventures of an impoverished couple with four crippled children as they try to get their fifth and latest child adopted, in the hope that she won’t wind up crippled as well. The second follows the equally pathetic life of a scatterbrained, spastic Jerry Lewis type who devotes his life to caring for his aged and senile mother. (The couple from the first part reappear briefly in this episode.) The third part, shot in film noir style, is largely devoted to the grim fantasies of a clothes peddler who’s afraid of being killed by fellow traffickers. Each episode has a different cinematographer and all are shot very adroitly and fluidly, though the more self-conscious stylistics of the third part sit rather oddly with the first two episodes, which are often much closer to neorealism. According to Makhmalbaf, the film as a whole deals with the three stages of existence—birth, “journey through life,” and death. Critic Gerald Peary has compared the film to Rossellini’s Paisan, and it’s certainly true that the first episode is as wrenching as anything in that film or in Germany, Year Zero. In Farsi with subtitles. By Jonathan Rosenbaum
Bresson’s brilliant adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story (A Gentle Creature) exhibits in its lapidary sequences the political and existential revolt of a young student in Paris. Sharing a theme that can be traced from Bresson’s Mouchette to his fantastic exploration of revolutionary choices in The Devil Probably, Une Femme Douce articulates in its inimitable minimalist mode a range of issues from the ideological options of France post-May ’68 to human relationships. Dominique Sanda is not the conventional, recognizable student revolutionary, but a “gentle” philosopher whose powers of sensitivity and social scrutiny exceed and tease the prosaic, crude disposition of her bourgeois husband. The sequences in the zoo, the museum of natural history and the performance of Hamlet are powerful. On another note, look out for Indian experimental filmmaker Kumar Shahani who was assisting Bresson at this time, sitting diagonally behind Sanda in the sequence at the movie theater.