Jul 22


WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03).  She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.


Author with the venerable Tatsuya Nakadai at a recent screening of Ran

Yesterday Japan Cuts 2013 came to a successful close, with a jam-packed schedule of four films in a row.  I only caught the middle two, Japan’s Tragedy and Dearest, both of which deal with the theme of death (like the earlier screened I’M FLASH, and they all do this deftly in their own unique ways).  Japan’s Tragedy stars the amazing Tatsuya Nakadai, an 80-year old actor who I had the honor to interpret for at an event last month at the Museum of the Modern Image when his film Ran (directed by Akira Kurosawa) was featured and he participated in a Q&A following the film.

Nakadai’s downtrodden character in Japan’s Tragedy is in direct contrast to his genkiness in real life.  The father he plays has recently lost his wife and has also been diagnosed with lung cancer on the morning of 3/11.  After going through one operation he decides that he doesn’t want any more treatment, and furthermore that he will board himself up in his room and die beside the altar for his late wife.  His son who is living with him since leaving his wife and daughter, as well as his job, is surviving on his father’s pension and taking care of him.  Unsure of how to react to his father’s pronouncement, he initially tries to lure him out of the room with his favorite foods and sake, but soon realizes it is a lost cause.  The film is shot in black and white, with only the occasional use of color during flashbacks.  The movie concludes with a dedication to the around 20,000 dead or missing victims of the earthquake and tsunami, and to the 31,560 people who committed suicide in Japan in 2010.

Dearest is a star-studded road trip film featuring the great Ken Takakura as a grieving husband who is traveling via camper to his late wife’s hometown to scatter her ashes as per her request.  Along the way he meets a whole host of characters, played by big time names such as Beat Takeshi, SMAP’s Tsuyoshi Kusayanagi, Haruka Ayase and Tadanobu Asano in a bit part as a Yamaguchi Prefecture policeman.  Through these encounters, the husband gradually comes to realize why his wife sent him on this errand without telling him about it before she passed away.  Like in Japan’s Tragedy, flashbacks play a prominent role in the story as they punctuate the widower’s journey.

While not all of the movies in this year’s Japan Cuts lineup dealt with death and similarly heavy themes, there were enough of them that did to made it feel as if a critical mass has been reached regarding looking back on 3/11.  I’M FLASH, Japan’s Tragedy and Dearest all came out in Japan in 2012, which makes it seem as if that time period was when the Japanese film world (perhaps reflecting the nation as a whole) was starting to assess the impact of this disaster on their country, on both the personal and universal levels. Going forward it will be interesting to see how these themes evolve, in terms of how 3/11’s long-term effects are depicted on the big screen.

Kudos to Japan Society for its hard work in putting together another fabulous film festival.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

Comments are closed.

Page Rank