Sunday, November 21, 2010

(Flowers) The Modern Japanese Woman - Joseph

The 14th Japanese Film Festival opens tonight in Sydney!! The highly anticipated event will be the biggest ever JFF and is further proof that Japanese cinema is loved worldwide. We invite you to be a part of the fun and festivities, and hope you come along this week for some cultural cocktails. Today we cover Yu Aoi's performances in "About Her Brother" (read here) and "Flowers" (submitted by festival volunteer Joseph below), which feature on Monday and Tuesday of the festival. A wonderful young actress that is sure to have a bright future, and is not to be missed on the big screen!

"The 14th Japanese Film Festival is fortunate to have a number of movies which were released in Japan only in 2010. One of these is Norihiro Koizumi’s magnificent film, "Flowers", a moving saga exploring the lives of six women living in very different times.

Koizumi-san, who previously directed the lovely and gently meditative "Midnight Sun" (2006) (starring talented singer-songwriter, Yui), well establishes his directorial chops with this latest offering. Starring an ensemble cast of Japan’s most sought-after leading ladies, "Flowers" manages to be both a broad-brush commentary on the advancements in Japanese society and a touching slice of life drama peering into the personal traumas and triumphs of 3 generations of women in a single family.

But the single biggest thing that makes "Flowers" so remarkable is the authenticity of its feel from a cinematic viewpoint. It is an experience tailored to the psychology of moviegoers as a class. As such, it functions as a tribute not only to the growth of Japan as a society, but to the development of movie-making in general. Ingrained somewhere in our collective psyche is the patently absurd but difficult to shake mental habit of seeing the early twentieth century in black and white or sepia tones. We know that it all played out in colour, but our minds switch back to monochrome when we try to picture it; a holdover, it would seem, of all the footage we have seen from an era without colour film. Maybe it’s just me that does this, but I don’t think I am alone.

Koizumi-san, at least, shares his vision of the 1930s in gorgeous antiquated tones as he beautifully captures Yu Aoi (About Her Brother - 14th JFF, Hula Girls - 12th JFF), one of Japan’s most talented and bankable actresses, in crisp black and white. Aoi-san comes across delightfully in vintage; the part well suits her subtle and subdued acting style. She flawlessly looks the part of the Yamato Nadeshiko, resplendent in various kimonos and decked out in traditional bridal regalia. One of the most memorable scenes in the film sees Aoi-san running through a sakura (cherry tree) grove in full bloom with mountains visible in the distance, a wide shot reminiscent of some old time silver screen epic. The scenes set in the 1930s are backed by a lush orchestral score swirling in a manner not heard since Hollywood’s days of yore. The director has brilliantly recaptured the visual style and musical motifs of classic vintage film.

"Flowers" is consistent in its elaborate recreations of the look and feel of film in the various periods in which its story is set. The scenes played out in the 1960s were shot in a soft, flushed palette similar to the style of the early days of colour cinematography and television. The scenes have an aged, early Brady Bunch appearance to them, complete with an optimistic, clarinet-heavy soundtrack and quaint sit-com establishing shots. The focus of the story in the 1960s setting is a young woman named Midori (Rena Tanaka), who is striving to make headway as a professional in what was still a man’s world. She equivocates when it comes to entering a relationship because of the automatic repercussions this would have on her career.

Rena Tanaka (The Cherry Tree in the Hills - 13th JFF, Waiting in the Dark), one of the most beautiful actresses in Japan today, so utterly fits in to the era in her scenes that it is not hard to imagine that, in a different time, she could have been a screen icon alongside the likes of Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn – so perfectly does her coiffed hair, doe-eyes and air of classic beauty fit with the cinematic style employed for her scenes.

The movie also contains excellent performances by Yukie Nakama, Kyoka Suzuki, Yuko Takeuchi and Ryoko Hirosue (featured in the JFF Newsletter Issue #3), the latter of whom also stars in another film featured in this year’s JFF, Zero Focus. "Flowers" is very impressive. It will probably touch some raw nerves as it confronts sensitive issues such as the death of a spouse or the delicate choice between risking a mother’s life and losing that of an unborn child. All of these topics are handled in a realistic and sobering manner, while still retaining the film’s uplifting tone. There were many amazing elements brought together into this film. "Flowers" is so sweeping in its scope that something, either in its narrative or the novelty of its vision, will speak to almost anyone who watches it.

Norihiro Koizumi has given us a film that is ambitious and majestic. It is a movie that is as much about how film has evolved over time as it is about the strong and resilient female characters at its core. As an exploration of the themes of accepting growth, assuming responsibility and dealing with the sometimes fearful rites of passage that maturation thrusts upon us, "Flowers" is an often taxing, but truly incredible, story of emotional renewal." by Joseph Sampson

Thanks to Joseph for that entry. "Flowers" is a remarkable piece of filmmaking that is just as gorgeous as the actresses featured in it. Remember to live tweet or facebook your experience at the festival. You can tweet @japanfilmfest or #JFF14, or post your views on our facebook fan page.

See you at the festival....tonight!!!

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