Kazuko Yoshiyuki

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Departures Review


Very Good
A minimalist approach to serious drama gives this film its emotional kick, even as it prevents it from really grappling with the serious issues in the story.

In the end, it's powerfully moving, and perhaps a bit too nice.

When his orchestra goes bust, young cellist Daigo (Motoki) and his smiley wife Mika (Hirosue) decide to move back to Daigo's hometown, where they can live in his family home. Daigo's mother died a couple of years earlier, and he hasn't seen his father since he was 6. He answers an ad in the newspaper for a job working with "departures", but this isn't a travel agency, as his new boss Sasaki (Yamazaki) teaches him the art of encoffining, preparing dead bodies for burial. And Mika isn't happy about this.

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Departures Review


Weak
Yôjirô Takita's Departures has come under siege since its startling upset at the 81st Academy Awards, beating out critical favorites The Class and Waltz with Bashir to win best foreign film. Such a blow to the critical consensus hadn't been dealt since Bosnia's No Man's Land beat out Amélie in 2001. Is a special brand of resentment justified in this latest case? Hardly. Any film lover who has watched the Oscars with any sort of interest over the years knows that, in the 62 years since the Academy began recognizing foreign accomplishments, they have rarely bestowed the award on films that deserve the attention.

Set mostly in an overtly nostalgic and gloomy section of Yamagata, Departures concentrates on the disassembling and retooling in the life of goofy Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki, fitfully quirky), a cellist living in Tokyo with his wife until his orchestra disbands. The abrupt case of unemployment sparks the idea of leaving the city for his childhood home of Sakata. His wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) is very understanding, relieved even by the prospect of not having to pay rent in her late mother-in-law's house.

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Empire Of Passion Review


OK
Love does funny things to men. Logic and reason go out the window to satisfy an emotional craving -- up is down, together is apart, and death is life. To quench Toyoji and Seki's lustful thirst in Empire of Passion, it means killing Seki's alcoholic, rickshaw-pulling husband and then barely seeing each other for three years. If that weren't bad enough, the locals are starting to talk, and the ghost of Seki's husband begins showing up in dreams. Set in a small Japanese village in the late 1800s, Empire of Passion's bizarre passion is thinly veiled by its kaidan story. Western eyes would likely equate the pale-faced, dark-hair apparition to the ghouls of popular J-horror, but traditional kaidan play more on a character's writhing guilt than on typical cinematic scares -- Seki's husband, Gisaburo, doesn't crawl out of any TVs or screech like a cat (he does, however, escape the well that Toyoji and Seki used to dispose of him). Before horror fans start lapping at the freshly spilled blood, Empire of Passion's ghost story is a diversion from Toyoji and Seki's shocking and, at times, brutal sexual relationship.

Gisaburo was always in the way of Toyoji and Seki, but murder wasn't an option until Toyoji decided to restrain Seki and shave her. Of course, Gisaburo would eventually see Seki's smoothness and know that she's been with another man. And that just won't do. The interesting thing isn't that the two commit the murder together, but that Toyoji's single, selfish desire of the flesh motivates it. When he's with Seki, he's only concerned with dominating her submissiveness. His lustful passion blinds him to the consequences of his actions. And the trouble for the two lovers, and the film alike, begins with Gisaburo's death.

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Wool 100% Review


Excellent
Though it's considered an artform by many, film rarely lives up to such a noble nomenclature. Instead, it's pedestrian or powerful, eliciting all kinds of emotional and aesthetic responses. But is there really the beauty and grace of other mediums to be found on the celluloid canvas? After watching Wool 100%, the inspired film by Japanese animator Mai Tominaga, the answer is a secure "yes." Noted for her profound pen and ink work, this live action first feature is a mesmerizing experience. Arcane and obtuse? Absolutely. Moving and masterful? By all means.

Sisters Ume-san and Kame-san are notorious pack rats. Living in the same house all their lives, daily jaunts to the neighborhood garbage cans have resulted in an overflowing mound of "treasures." Carefully cataloging and illustrating each find, the siblings keep an in-depth inventory over their landfill of a home. When they stumble upon a basket of red yarn, they fail to take into consideration what's attached to the other end. It's Aonamishi, a spectral girl who uses the material to endlessly knit a bulky sweater dress. Upon finishing, she cries about how horrible the outfit is and begins the process all over again. Day and night, week after week, the sisters are tormented by the child. It forces them into a desperate situation. They either change their habits from decades past, or suffer Aonamishi's banshee wails.

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Departures Trailer

Departures Trailer

Watch the trailer for Departures Yojiro Takita 's Departures won Best Foreign Language Film at...

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