Maborosi (1995)

13 01 2008

In recent years, a small group of Japanese directors have emerged, all of whom, seem to be making a conscious effort to contest a lot of the “extreme” J-horror stuff that has become popular in the United States. This group, taking it’s cues from the dying film movement in Taiwan, generally focuses on real, undramatic occurrences. Long static takes seem to be popular as well. Unlike the movement in Taiwan, these directors also seem to incorporate lush cinematography with a very poetic sensibility, not unlike the films of Terrence Malick. This movement, that doesn’t actually exists outside of my head is made up of Jun Ichikawa, Hiroshi Ishikawa, and Nobuhiro Yamashita (yes the guy who made Linda Linda Linda) among many others. If this ever becomes a cohesive movement then Hirokazu Koreeda’s Maborosi may be considered the start of it all.

Of course, like any film movement (real or otherwise) the starting point will be very rough as is the case here. My viewing of this film adds some negative bias since the New Yorker DVD is completely detestable. The “rough” spots, in comparison to the future films of the psuedo-movement, is the lack of poetic stylization. Of course, this is not a fault of the film because it’s intentions are not in providing flowery voice-overs but instead on examining life neutrally. I do mention this as the start of the movement (reminder: the one that does not exist) because I can see some dream-like imagery that a director like Hiroshi Ishikawa could have expanded on.  I’ll get into that later.

The main character is Yumiko, played by the gorgeous Makiko Esumi. Living with her husband and her three month old son, she is plagued by nightmares of her grandmother’s departure. Her husband is killed not soon after in a very similar situation. She remarries and finds herself living by the Sea of Japan, a major departure from the gritty streets of Osaka.

Despite the near-VHS quality of New Yorker’s DVD, you can still see what a carefully lit film this is. The most obvious example of this is the sequence the naturally lit discussions that Yumiko has with both husbands. Sequences that start out pitch black, and by simply turning on a lamp, obtain a very odd beauty. A visual motif that can also be found in Fu sheng and Dust in the Wind, both absolute favorites of mine. I can’t say this had quite as strong emotional impact on me, but it is very good film, none the less. Perhaps a viewing with a better DVD source will change things. Until then, this is just a really nice, downbeat, slice of life film.



One response

17 01 2008

good! support!

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