Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Madman DVD
Available now on DVD

This Japanese film was the surprise winner of the 2009 Foreign Language Film Oscar. The surprise winner as most pundits and critics had expected the Israeli animated docu-drama, Waltz With Bashir, or the French film, The Class, to claim the prize.

Its win may have placed it under greater scrutiny and expectation at the time, but now on DVD Yojiro Takita’s film may find a more open minded and appreciative audience, one prepared to approach it on its own terms, that of a quasi-profound drama and comedy of manners.

Daigo is a cellist with an orchestra but when economic pressures sees it disbanded, he decides to uproot he and his surprisingly compliant young wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), to his childhood home in a seaside village. In the course of looking for new employment, he mistakenly applies for a job which involves preparing deceased bodies for cremation.

Handling the deceased is not considered an honourable job in Japan, and although too ashamed to confide in his wife, Daigo slowly begins to admire and excel in his new career. The encoffinating ceremony, which involves cleaning and dressing the deceased in front of their loved ones, appeals to the artist in Daigo, treating it with the respect and attention to detail it deserves.

At just over two hours, Departures does outstay its welcome with one too many classical music interludes straining for effect, which is really unnecessary as the emotions come through on their own. Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it an engaging and emotional viewing experience. Yes, and well worth the watch.

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