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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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Suicide Club Review


Excellent
A group of 54 Tokyo schoolgirls lock hands and happily leap in front of a subway, launching a fanatical interest in mass suicide among the youth of Japan. Before you go thinking this is a Japanese Heathers, rest assured it's anything but. Suicide Club is a psycho thriller imbued with harrowing imagery and a gruesome story in the creepy tradition of Ringu and Audition.

Start by taking a peek at the uncommon amount of gore: Bodies explode when they impact the ground, like enormous water balloons filled with blood. A belt made of human flesh shows up on a subway platform. Limbs and heads are everywhere. This is not a film for the faint of heart.

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Departures Trailer

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A group of 54 Tokyo schoolgirls lock hands and happily leap in front of a...

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