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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Still Walking

One of Japan's most gifted filmmakers zeros on the flipside to happy family dynamics

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Kore-eda Hirokazu is the most gifted and graceful Japanese filmmaker of his generation and is often considered the heir to Yasujiro Ozu, a title he's truly earned with this wonderful little blessing of a movie. Like that mid-century master, Hirokazu uses silence as punctuation and empty rooms and ghostly staircases for space and context. He focuses on family, loyalty, generational strife, grief and regret. Still Walking resembles Ozu's 1953 masterwork Tokyo Story enough to be homage, but Hirokazu has ample skill to spin a tale his own thoughtful (and modern) way. 

The story sees two grown children visit their retired parents at their coastal home near Yokohama on the anniversary of their brother's drowning death. 

Chatty sister Chinami is the nurturer, ready to soothe old wounds, even if it means moving back in with Mom and Dad.  Meanwhile, brother Ryo can barely be there for the weekend, largely because he still lives in his late brother's long shadow, and because Dad disapproves of his marriage to a single mother and faltering career. Actually, Dad (Yoshio Harada) disapproves of about everything; he blusters and sulks, but his temper tantrums aren't taken very seriously. They talk and bicker about baseball and pop songs, about sumo and the best way to prepare corn tempura, but talk around things that really matter.   

As with any family, there are universes of emotion buried in each gesture, in every word and glance, particularly in Hirokazu's hands. More, simple objects —flowers, toothbrushes, radishes, etc. — become poetic.

Still Walking is great cinema because it transports us to a place we never thought to visit, then invites us to linger there until the world outside scarcely seems to exist. 

At the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17 and at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18. It also shows on 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23-24 and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25.  Call 313-833-3237.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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