Tuesday, November 9, 2010

(The Summit) The Mountain Of Death - Samson

Welcome back to the JFF Blog! Today we have a great review of The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones from Samson Kwok. If you subscribe to our newsletter you would have read about the project in our latest issue. It is the debut directorial piece by Daisaku Kimura, one of the greatest cinematographers of our time, and has been picking up awards left, right and centre.

You can subscribe to the newsletter via our website, in which we will be hosting some great competitions in the lead up to the Sydney leg of the 14th Japanese Film Festival. For now, you can get a taste of what will be on offer as Samson takes us on a journey to the edge of the world!

A team of explorers risk their lives to reach the peak of Mount Tsurugidake also known as “The Mountain of Death” in order to complete a map of Japan in 1907.

"Movies about mountain climbing are usually epic tales of human survival, and The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones is another fine example of this genre. We live in an era when every peak of every mountain has been conquered, but it is not uncommon for even today’s mountain climbers to run into trouble during their expeditions, despite having available to them sophisticated equipment, greater understanding about the human body’s functioning at high altitudes, and knowledge passed on by previous generations of mountain climbers. So if you think it is tough these days, think about the mountaineers of the past who did not have any of those things and had to rely instead on instincts, determination and luck.

Watching The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones, I have a complaint. It is a positive one though (yes, a positive complaint, if there is ever such a thing), and this relates to my viewing of the film on  a small screen. OK, let me explain. The film was directed by veteran cinematographer Daisaku Kimura, and his past experience really shows here. The cinematography is truly breathtaking, so much so that if you randomly take a screen shot, chances are that it will be beautiful enough to be made into a postcard. So Kimura really deserves the Japanese Academy Award for Best Cinematography that he won. I was just disappointed that my television screen isn’t big enough to allow me to fully enjoy the film, but I guess no TV screen is big enough for something this grand. Hence my advice is: catch this on the big screen if you can!

Kimura also won the Best Director Award for this film, which is not bad at all for a directorial debut. He has certainly done a fine job, but the stellar cast have no doubt helped him a lot. Asano Tadanobu (Villon’s Wife - 14th JFF, Ichi the Killer), Aoi Miyazaki (Solanin - 14th JFF) and Nakamura Toru (Oppai Volleyball, The Kiss, K-20: Legend of the Mask - 13th JFF) are all solid, while Teruyuki Kagawa (Dear Doctor - 14th JFF, Memories of Matsuko - 12th JFF) is outstanding in his award-winning role as the humble mountain guide. The cast playing the members of the mountain climbing teams in particular deserve much respect for their fearless portrayal of this extremely difficult journey. The narrative is at times a bit slow (which will be frustrating for some viewers), but this does add to one’s appreciation of the magnitude of the challenges faced by the film’s characters.

In the end, this story of mountaineers of the past risking their lives and trying to survive the most extreme weather conditions to achieve their goals is both touching and humbling. The audience is treated to a wonderful and stunning journey to a place most of us would never get to go to. There is a message from the film that I find particularly meaningful, which is ‘nature is eternal but life is fleeting.’ So let us cherish every moment of the journey and be not afraid to fulfil our dreams, just like the mountain-climbing teams in The Summit.

Of the 5 films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Japanese Academy Awards, 4 will be showcased at the upcoming Japanese Film Festival in Australia, and The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones is one of them. There are also heaps of others to choose from in a particularly strong line-up of films at this year's festival." -  Samson Kwok, Heroic Cinema

Samson will be covering more films from the festival over the next week, which you can catch on this blog so be on the look out. Meanwhile we are still after more people who are passionate about Japanese cinema to get involved with this blog. If you want to be a part of it please get send your blog idea to assistantcoordinator@jpf.org.au

See you at the festival!

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