Tsutomu Yamazaki

Tsutomu Yamazaki

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Departures Review


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 Trailer


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Departures Review


Grim
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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Tampopo Review


Extraordinary
Talk about a spaghetti western! Tampopo is Juzo Itami's tongue-in-cheek version of an old-fashioned western, with hopeful (and amateur) restaurateur Tsutomu Yamazaki looking to create the perfect bowl of ramen for her customers. She finds help from a drifter in a cowboy hat, and her story is interrupted by bizarre -- and seemingly irrelevant -- subplots, like an old man who gorges on noodles and then chokes on a piece of meat; he is rescured via vacuum cleaner. Dizzyingly hilarious, Tampopo is the ultimate slurp-'em-up; probably the greatest (and least seen) comedy to ever come out of Japan.

Kagemusha Review


Good
Before the epic rancor of Ran, Akira Kurosawa told a more intimate, but no less tragic story with Kagemusha. Also set in feudal Japan, but based on real events, the film tells the tale of a thief set in place to impersonate a dead warlord to prevent the warlord's enemies from gaining control. It's kind of like Dave, but much slower and in Japanese.

The film opens in 16th century Japan. Two warlords, Ieyasu (Masayuki Yui) and Nobunaga (Daisuke Ryu), take on a third, Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai), for control of the country. So far, Shingen has them on the run. But a lucky sniper gets off a round that may or may not have killed the warlord. While his enemies wonder, a wounded Shingen demands that should he die, his passing be kept a secret for three years, lest his rivals be emboldened. When Shingen finally gives up the ghost, it's up to his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki) to come up with a plan to carry out those wishes.

Continue reading: Kagemusha Review

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