This is a family tale that takes us to a rural town where the Haruno clan lives in a comfortable house surrounded by rice fields. Mom (Satomi Tezuka) is a freelance animation artist. Dad (Tomokazu Miura) is a hypnotherapist. Teenage Hajime (Takahiro Sato) races back and forth from school on his bike suffering the joys and pains of his first intense schoolboy crush. Little Sachiko's (Maya Banno) problem is stranger: the six-year-old sees a gigantic version of herself following her around all day, and she can't figure out why. It's getting on her nerves. Rounding out the group is Grandpa (Tatsuya Gashuin), an artist and would-be singer with Einstein hair who likes to listen to a tuning fork and strike martial-arts poses.
Arriving on the scene is Mom's brother, the very cool and very relaxed Uncle Ayano (Tadanobu Asano), who works as a sound mixer in the city but has come out to the sticks to clear his head and maybe reconnect with his long lost love. When he's not stretched out on the floor taking a nap, he regales the kids with bizarre stories of his childhood which they gobble up, at least until they're distracted by their own problems.
Hajime takes up the board game of Go when he finds out his crush is in the Go club. (The scene of him speeding through the fields on his bike joyously screaming "Go club! Go club!" is truly memorable.) Sachiko comes to believe that she'll shake her giant double if she can complete a backflip on the horizontal bar at an abandoned playground, where, as it turns out, she witnesses a not-quite-dead yakuza victim digging himself out of his own grave. But that's another story.
Meanwhile, Mom's anime employer, another relative, gets it in his head to record a song called "Mountain" ("Yama" in Japanese.) The lyrics: "Yama yama yama yama." Grandpa volunteers to sing along, and they head off to the city hoping that Uncle Ayano will record it for him, which he does, along with a truly trippy music video to go with it.
And life goes on. Many critics have pointed out that with its long takes and scenes of the most humble moments of domestic life, The Taste of Tea is a sort of trippy tribute to the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, who is known as the master of capturing Japanese family life on film. Maybe so, but that's just one of many, many layers to this sweet-natured comedy, which just keeps on shambling along until its various plot threads start to tie together in time for a bittersweet finale that features, among other things, a sunflower that blossoms to the size of a galaxy. The Taste of Tea is pure pleasure. Pour yourself some green tea, and take it all in.
Aka Cha no aji.
Amazing what a little Miracle Gro will do.
Run time: 143 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 20th April 2005
Production compaines: Grasshoppa, Aoi Promotion
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Katsuhito Ishii
Producer: Kazuto Takida, Kazutoshi Wadakura
Screenwriter: Katsuhito Ishii
Starring: Anna Tsuchiya as Aoi Suzuishi, Tadanobu Asano as Ayano Haruno - uncle, Maya Banno as Sachiko Haruno (daughter), Satomi Tezuka as Yoshiko Haruno (mother), Tomokazu Miura as Nobuo Haruno (father), Tatsuya Gashûin as Akira Todoroki (grandfather), Rinko Kikuchi as (as Yuriko Kikuchi), Takahiro Sato as Hajime Haruno (son), Ken'ichi Matsuyama as Young Man in Red T-Shirt, Ryō Kase as Rokutaro Hamadayama, Tomoko Nakajima as Akira Terako, Susumu Terajima as Tattooed Man, Kotaro Shiga as Teacher Gashi, Kaiji Moriyama as Dancer, Hideaki Anno as Kasugabe, Kirin Kiki as Obaa, Kenji Mizuhashi as Maki Hoshino, Yuka Nomura as Girl in Noodle Shop, Emi Wakui as Narrator, Shinji Takeda as CM Director
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