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Monday, May 23, 2011

Criterion A Day #1 - Still Walking

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films...

Pop Culture Beast presents a Criterion-a-Day, reviewing Criterion titles daily (until we run out).

Still Walking
Spine # 554
Written, Directed and Edited by: Hirokazu Kore-Eda

From the box:

The lyrical, profoundly moving Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo) is contemporary Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-Eda's most personal work to date. Created as a tribute to his late mother, the film depicts one day in the life of the Yokoyamas, gathered together for a commemorative ritual whose nature only gradually becomes clear.  rather than focus on big dramatic moments, Kore-eda relies on simple gestures and domestic routines (especially cooking) to evoke a family's entire life, its deep regrets and daily joys.  Featuring vivid heartrending performances and a gentle naturalism that harks back to the director's early, documentary work, Still Walking is an extraordinary portrayal of the ties that bind us.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I sat down to watch Still Walking.  I didn't know what kind of film it would be.  To be honest, and I'm ashamed to say it, my experience with Japanese cinema hasn't gone to far beyond horror or martial arts movies.

Before Still Walking, I don't know that I've seen any true Japanese drama films.  After Still Walking, I'm ready to bury myself in them if they're half as good as this one is.

The film is full of wonderful performances especially from the young Shohei Tanaka who gives such a nuanced and sad performance.  This is a kid dealing with his own loss even while the step family he is visiting is doing the same. 

The story revolves around a family gathering together for an event.  We only gradually learn about what that is.  What's key here is how we learn the relationship dynamics between this family and despite the simplicity of the story, the complications that unravel are staggering.  The relationships are layered and realistic.  This could be ANY family and I'd wager that most people who watch this will see bits of their own family here. 

A film like this could easily slip into melodrama but Still Walking never does.  It's riveting start to finish.  The wonderful shots, the fantastic performances and the simple story all weave together into a film that has rocketed up to one of my favorites of all time.

Criterion has delivered a stunning transfer.  The film looks beautiful on blu-ray. Very crisp and clear. 

As for special features, the disc includes new interviews, a documentary on the making of the film, a trailer, new English translation and a booklet that includes an essay from Dennis Lim as well as recipes for the creation of the food in the film.

I can't recommend Still Walking enough.  It is such a beautiful film that is certainly a must see for all. 

Criterion Collection #554
Pop Culture Beast Rating

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