A Year of Asian Cinema: 1, 2

We've committed ourselves to watching Asian movies this year ... because they are readily available on every block, because there are thriving film industries in Hong Kong, India and Japan, and because we'd like to delve a bit more deeply into this place we're living.

I'm going to chronicle the movies we watch here on this blog. Film reviews aren't nearly as interesting to me as restaurant reviews and book reviews, but I at least want a record of what we watch and what we like. So here goes.

  • Departures, directed by Yojira Takita, 2009

  • Viewed on a rainy Sunday night, August 30, 2009

  • In Japanese, with English subtitles

Filled with lovely music and beautiful images, this film satisfied on many levels. An out-of-work cellist returns with his wife to his hometown and the house his mother left him. He begins to work in a funeral home, helping to prepare the dead for burial, and helping the living to grieve. It's not popular or respected work, but he grows to see it as something of a ministry. The movie is a bit predictable, but even as you know where it is going, you don't want it to go anywhere else. A certain Japanese quirkiness and humor keep it light, and themes of the nature and purpose of work, and what makes work meaningful, resonate with us right now. Just lovely.

  • The Way We Are, directed by Xu Anhua, 2008

  • Viewed Sunday night, September 7, 2009

  • In Cantonese, with English subtitles

Sweet, subtle, and maybe a bit slow, The Way We Are portrays a friendship between two women of different generations who work in a supermarket, each alone in her own way. (The slowness is fine with me, since it allows me to knit, even with subtitles!). Their friendship is evidence of what Bobby Ives says about people---every person you meet has something they need from you, and has something to give you. For us it was an insightful, detailed glimpse into the everyday lives of real Hong Kongers, and we loved recognizing the scenes we've observed right on our street. The younger woman of the pair reminds us of our favorite doorkeeper, but I think we would have gotten attached to both women even without that. More complex than it seemed at first, the movie deals with themes of family, religion, and the intense human need for someone to love. The Way We Are doesn't make any simplistic moral judgements---being poor and hardworking doesn't necessarily make one more happy or more righteous than a wealthy person, but neither is the opposite true.


Andy Smith said...

Hey guys, I like being able to check in on how you're doing every once in a while! Your blog is great, and Finn is even greater. He's so big.

Does the Asian cinema critic take recommendations? We watched Beijing Bicycle a few years ago and really liked it.

I'll be keeping an eye on your Asian flix pics for good ones :-)


foodsmith said...

We love recommendations--thanks! Great to hear from you ... would love to see your pictures of your family!

DeAne said...


On a transatlantic flight I saw much of a film called "The Taste of Happiness.' As the title suggests, it involved food and an unexpected friendship between a cook and a department store employee. I think it was a Japanese film. If you find it, let me know because I can't. Seems like something shown on Northwest would not be so rare!


wicker said...

Hi M&M&F - I am home sick today and was able to spend some quality blog time. It was a real treat to get caught up on your happenings! All is well here, I think of you often and hope we can meet up sometime. All the best, Wicker

DeAne said...

Flavor of Happiness! DeAne