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Directed by Yojiro Takita
Produced in 2008
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
Michael Brooke is happy to see the spirit of Yasujiro Ozu alive and well in this beautifully sensitive film about one of the most fundamental of all human experiences.
At the 2008 Oscars, it was widely assumed that Best Foreign Film was a shoo-in for either The Class or Waltz With Bashir, so eyebrows were raised when it went to Departures, a little-known Japanese film about dressing corpses. But it's easy to see why Yôjirô Takita's marvellous film won the Academy over: few other recent films combine such cultural specificity with so many universal human truths.
After reluctantly accepting that he has no future as a professional cellist, Daigo Kobayashi (tousle-haired Masahiro Motoki) applies for a job that has something to do with 'departures'. Visions of a life spent travelling to exotic climes are dashed when it turns out to be a misprint for 'departed', and that the job actually involves 'casketing' - an elaborate ritual whereby the corpse is cleaned, dressed and made-up in front of grieving relatives prior to cremation. Master casketer Ikuei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) senses that Kobayashi might have a real gift for the profession and hires him despite the latter's strong reservations.
What follows is an immensely delicate and subtle study of attitudes towards one of the most fundamental of all human experiences, and one that we normally try not to think about - most graphically demonstrated by Kobayashi's wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) when she eventually finds out what her husband now does for a living. That said, Takita can't resist the occasional injection of black comedy (could anyone, with this material?), such as the mid-ceremony discovery that an apparently female corpse might not be what she seems, a matter that Sasaki has to handle with the utmost tact and discretion.
Although hugely moving, especially when Kobayashi has to deal with the corpses of people he knew when alive, Takita's film is also a heartfelt tribute to the professionalism of people who take on difficult, potentially embarrassing jobs and make them look as easy as breathing - something that could easily be said of the director himself. In a year when Yasujiro Ozu's films are seeing a major revival, this is heartening proof that the torch that he lit is still burning brightly.
Michael Brooke on 23rd March 2010
Author of 135 reviews
Yôjirô Takita's Oscar-winning Japanese comedy drama, Departures, is a beautiful, touching film about life and death. It stars Masahiro Motoki as a professional cellist who loses his job when his orchestra disbands. He and his wife move back into his childhood home and he begins to look for work. When he answers a classified advert entitled 'Departures', he assumes it is for a travel agency - in fact it is for an undertakers. To the bemusement of his wife and friends, Daigo throws himself into his unusual new work with pride and vigour, and learns a lot about life, death and love in the process.
Publisher: Arrow Films
Length: 130 mins
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Cat No: FCD430
Format: DVD Colour
- Making of documentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- Photo gallery
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