Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Departures"

Movie time...or movie review/recommendation time. This film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and is it ever deserving. It's incredibly moving and beautiful, with deft touches of humour, a universal message and breathtaking scenery. Masahiro Motoki stars as Daigo Kobayashi a recently "dissolved" cellist in a struggling symphony orchestra in Tokyo. Feeling disheartened and inadequate to find a position elsewhere he returns to his hometown and looks for work, with his wife in tow. He gets more than he bargained for in answering a want ad...thinking it's a job in a travel agency since it uses the phrase "departures". Departures indeed but of a more permanent type... At first he struggles with the daunting task of the ritual preparation of bodies for the hereafter. His boss played by Tsutomu Yamazaki sees more in him than he does in himself - by the way this actor starred as the stoic Goro in one of my favourite movies ever " Tampopo" (A Japanese noodle western). Daigo is so embarassed by his new occupation he can't even bring himself to tell his wife...and of course when he does she flees back to the city. The camera marks the gorgeous passing of seasons, and Daigo's realization that not only does he have an affinity for his work, he also provides a most precious final memory and closure for the families left behind. There is sadness yes, but also commemoration and celebration of their time on earth. All of this leads up to a final and poignant need for his services. It of course brought up for me the loss of my mother last fall and some tears but ultimately a journey that everyone must go through, in the Japanese example it's a respectful, dignified and loving passage.
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