Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Hiroshi Abe, Yui Natsukawa, You, Kazuya Takahashi, Shohei Tanaka, Kirin Kiki, Yoshio Harada
Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 114
Date: 06/28/2008
IMDB

Still Walking (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Parent Gap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hirokazu Kore-da's new family drama Still Walking is his most beautifully accomplished work since After Life (1998), but even so it comes so close to Ozu territory -- especially the themes of Tokyo Story (1953) -- that it ends up paling in comparison.

Ryo (Hiroshi Abe) is an unemployed art restorer who has married a widow with a young son. Upon the anniversary of his older brother's death, he returns home for an annual family gathering. His grumpy father (Yoshio Harada) is a doctor who was forced to retire due to failing eyesight. His dream of one of his sons taking over his clinic has come to nothing. (Of course, the happy future of everything that could have been is projected onto the dead son.)

A daughter, Chinami (played by an actress named "You"), also arrives, and announces her intention to move in with her mother and father. Surprisingly, the mother, Toshiko (Kirin Kiki), isn't all that thrilled by this plan.

That's the basic setup, and the rest of the movie, which takes place over about 24 hours, shows the little emotional battles between the various family members, very often while eating (the old man only comes out of his office for meals). Some characters have power that can never be transcended, and others learn new ways to break through.

Kore-eda uses delightfully still camerawork with many unbroken shots, arranging and keeping the various players on the same playing field. The movie's screenplay (also by Kore-eda) employs a few simplistic, art-house movie gimmicks (a yellow butterfly) to bring things to a neat conclusion, but the presentation of these elements is never less than patient, tranquil and thoughtful.

The Criterion Collection bestowed upon this movie a gorgeous Blu-ray release. Extras include interviews with director Kore-eda and cinematographer Yamazaki, a documentary on the making of the film, and a trailer. The liner notes booklet includes an essay by critic Dennis Lim, plus recipes from the movie!

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