Friday, August 28, 2009

Departures (Rhoades)

“Departures” Takes Off As Best Foreign Film

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My second cousin Ralph owned a funeral home. It seemed like an odd profession to me. He was always so somber, dressed in a dark suit, standing straight as a rod, hands clasped in front of him. But he took pride in his work, “helping families in their time of need,” as he described it.

That’s the theme of “Departures,” the Japanese motion picture that won the 2009 Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film. It’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

In “Departures” (original title: “Okuribito”), you’ll meet a cellist named Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) who takes a job with a funeral service after his orchestra closes down. A bit embarrassed by his new profession, assisting people who have departed this life, he’s vague in describing this work to his wife, referring to it as the “ceremonial occasions industry.” She gets the idea he’s in the wedding business.
When everybody figures out Daigo’s true occupation, the reactions are harsh. His wife leaves him; his friends shun him.

Don’t worry, director Yôjirô Takita doesn’t leave you hanging there. The former cellist manages to redeem himself – and therein hangs the story.
Loosely based on a book called “Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician,” the film was long time in the making. The director attended funeral ceremonies to learn more about the “encoffinment” business. And Motoki, being a meticulous actor, both studied with a mortician and learned to play a cello. It took them ten years, and the effort paid off. In addition to the Oscar, the film won 31 other major awards.
“Departures” is a touching film about life and death. Its Japanese title literally means “the person who sees off.”

Maybe my cousin was really in the travel business.
[from Solares Hill]

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