Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Still Walking

Having watched one Japanese movie (Tokyo Story) a couple of days ago, it was interesting to watch another, Still Walking, last night.  Still Walking was released in 2008, so it's nearly fifty years younger than the other movie.  Yet it has lots of connections, and seemingly the director, Hirokazu Kore-eda has used Tokyo Story as a kind of model for his movie.

Both are about families, and a visit by one part of the family to another: in the first the parents went to visit their various children; in the later movie, the children come to the parents for the anniversary of the death of the oldest son, who died saving a boy from drowning.   So there's an absent, deceased son in both the stories too.  And a daughter who speaks her mind and doesn't mince words.

In the earlier movie, the parents are a lovely couple who've grown past disputes and bitterness.  In this movie, the father is constantly bitter - pretty much at everyone (he's the sort that would never buy anniversary gifts for wife) - and his wife, until late in the movie, seems to be a lovely woman, always feeding everyone and been the hostess.  However, after a visit from the boy who was saved from drowning (he's invited every year) she nags on about how fat he's become and how untidy and how little he's made of himself as a young adult.  And then she goes on to tell her other son that she only invites the young man to vent her anger on how much she hates him for being alive when her son is dead.

The son she tells this to is a struggling artist, reduced to doing restoration work when he can find it.  He's a great disappointment to his retired doctor father, but he's the most sympathetic character in the movie, a man not only struggling with his job but with his fairly recent marriage to a young widow.  She has a young son that he's having to get to know as well.  (Interestingly, he's far more European-looking than anyone else in the movie.)

The daughter is another one of these blunt characters who's happy to move on and leave the deceased brother behind.  In fact she and her husband are planning to move in with the parents and remodel the house to suit their needs.  This doesn't seem to be being met with much favour, and we never find out whether they actually go ahead with this.  She has a bit of a dope of a husband, although he's a lot more fun than his counterpart in Tokyo Story.

It's an interesting movie, but not as engaging as its older 'brother' because there's a lot more bitterness floating around and much less warmth and humour.  I enjoyed it, but it leaves a fair amount of gloom in its wake.

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