Monday, January 26, 2009

Cherry Blossoms: Hanami -- as many Thums Up as I can offer

So the weekend was a blur. I intended to see a couple of movies; there is a film festival of new German-language movies [German, Austrian, and Swiss] playing in town, and almost all were attractive to me.

I didn't see them all, but I caught a couple. And life imposed a few more movies [Hollywood-variety] as well. But I must start with Cherry Blossoms, the best movie I've seen in years and years and years.

My review, from elsewhere:

Cherry Blossoms (2009)
The movie was startling -- it offered brightly-drawn, finely-crafted characters who illuminate the human condition.

Yeah, I know -- sounds like Art House claptrap. But this film was amazing. It's themes -- from the travails of aging, the loss of connection with family, the burdens of integrating lives, the abandonment of artistic pursuits for other pursuits, the clash of cultures -- are all sensitively, beautifully explored. And the movie has all of the pacing and humour and broad touches of a Hollywood comedy or drama [yes, this movie is both].

The two leads,
Hannelore Elsner and Elmar Wepper, each carry their parts of the movie with graceful, exciting performances. The film centers on Ms. Elsner's character for the first half of the movie, and on Mr. Wepper's character for the second. They are both electrifying -- which is not easy when the characters

[(1) a middle-aged mother who has, apparently without regret, sublimated herself to her family, especially her husband; and (2) that husband, who is retired-in-place, and raises routine and lack of imagination to an art form]

are anything but. Mr. Wepper's Rudy undergoes the more conventional character arc of growth and discovery, but this movie is anything but a cliche about finally discovering what's important in life. It's a love song, and an elegy.


I could say so much more, but instead I trust you'll see it yourself.

The movie had only one D.C.-area showing during the festival, but will be back in February for at least a one-week run. I can't recommend it highly enough.

From Variety:
Per Doerrie [the writer/director], the tale was inspired by Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” and its own spiritual predecessor, Leo McCarey’s 1937 weepie “Make Way for Tomorrow.” Literal Japanese translation of “Hanami” is “to look at flowers,” and little-known Butoh dancing combines Japanese movement with German expressionism.


Mister Parker said...

When did you and I change lives? I remember a time when you wouldn't see a movie without a gun to your head and I saw 50 movies a year and now you're going to film festivals and I am reduced to two Netflix features a month.

Did see a nifty one this weekend, Starting Out In The Evening, starring Frank Langella as a 70 year old out-of-print writer and Lauren Ambrose as an ambitious grad student who wants to write her thesis about him.

*SPOILER (sort of) ALERT*

The movie doesn't play out in predictable ways, I don't think, and definitely has some true things to say about writing, first and foremost of which is that the man and the artist are two different people and loving one is not the same as loving the other. The truth is, the man sits alone in a room and pounds away at a typewriter until occasionally the artist sends him a useful note from the subconscious and for the most part, the man has only a nodding acquaintance with the artist. But it takes the hot young redhead a while to figure that out ...

l'il jimmy watson said...

When did you and I change lives? I remember a time when you wouldn't see a movie without a gun to your head and I saw 50 movies a year and now you're going to film festivals and I am reduced to two Netflix features a month.

Hmmm; just about a decade after you and I changed lives the first time.

You know, when I would throw parties in my office, and chat with everyone at work, and had lots of friends and flirted with broads and flitted around, and you would shyly retire to your office. Until the day that I would reluctantly leave my office to stop in and make an appearance at your holiday party. Lifting the covers of my depression and horrid life [not that you had those; they were exclusively mine] just long enough to peer out and say "have at it, fella!

We've probably achieved some kind of equilibrium, but that won't last either. . . .

I saw Starting Out in the Evening in the theater, and I really, really enjoyed it. It's probably my fave Lili Taylor performance, and I thought Ambrose and Langella brought it and captured and delivered . . . reality.

you're going to film festivals

It was weird to show up and be greeted by the E Street manager, and then to show up for Cherry Blossoms and have the guest speaker [who I'd met the night before] come up and say "Hi, Scott; welcome back."

I saw two movies on Saturday, btw . . . and one yesterday.

Of the four this weekend, three were good, and one was not good, but coulda been.

l'il jimmy watson said...

I happened across the NYTimes's [largely favorable] review of Cherry Blossoms, which included this:

But while Ms. Dörrie’s film is exquisitely shot, its themes and metaphors are obvious rather than subtle, and its emotional rhythms — rueful laughter punctuating the pathos — would not be out of place in a television drama. Too much is explained: we can appreciate the transitory beauty of cherry blossoms without being told that they are “a symbol of impermanence,” * * * Still, there is something quiet and real in the way that this film contemplates the curious interplay of happiness and sorrow.

I like the "television drama" reference; I've told more than a few people that the movie doesn't seem German, or Japanese, but very Hollywood, in the best sense of that word. It is comfortable and familiar and easily-approachable. It's why I'm a movie guy and not a film critic.

Mister Parker said...

By the way, speaking of Tokyo Story, which the Variety review you quote mentions, if you haven't seen that, I highly recommend it, especially now that you're going through the whole dealing-with-an-aging-mom thing I went through ...