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 Post subject: Hanami - Cherry Blossoms
PostPosted: June 21st, 2008, 7:51 pm 
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Location: Trier, Germany
This is a title that I don't expect you to find any time soon, it's a German-Japanese co-production, I think NHK and the Bavarian broadcast company were involved.

It's about an elderly Bavarian couple in the middle of their sixties. Rudi is a medium ranking official in a government agency that handles recycling efforts and Trudi is a housewife. In the beginning Trudi learns that her husband only has a few months of good health left (although it is never said what he's suffering from and they don't tell him) and the doctors suggest they go on a last trip, or "some little adventure". But she knows he doesn't like adventures, he's a clichée Bavarian: happily stuck in his conservative smalltown life and his world ends where big cities begin.
But Trudi convinces him to visit their children - the two who live in Berlin, that is. The youngest son works for a German company in Tokyo, too far away fro Rudi's tastes. Visiting the kids is a little catastrophe in itself, since living apart has made them strangers to their parents, nobody knows how to handle the sudden visit, and the couple from the Bavarian countryside does not get along well in "young" Berlin.

It is interesting to note that a topic like homosexuality is handled so free of prejudice in this production - the couple's daughter is a lesbian and she is depicted kissing her girlfriend - since Bavaria is best known for it's conservatism and strict Catholicism (strict in German terms, which are lax compared to some standards). The audience also learns that Trudi has a profound interest in Japanese performing arts - especially Butô, performed by Endô Tadashi in the movie - that goes beyond her pride of her youngest son being successfull in such a far-away country.

So, since the kids in Berlin are obviously nervous having their parents around, Trudi and Rudi leave and go on a trip to the Baltic Sea, where suddenly Trudi dies. Rudi realizes that Trudi had planned her life differently and that she gave up her dreams out of love for him. Trudi wanted to become a Butô dancer herself and train in Japan, and Rudi's bad conscience drives him to Japan, where he lives in his son's apartment and takes walks through this very strange city, wearing his wife's clothes underneath his coat in order to bring her to Japan in this fashion.

The movie, by Doris Dörrie, goes the whole hog - it demonizes, it mystifies and it glorifies (Japan). When Rudi comes to Tokyo and takes a look at night life you get to see the dark, decadent sides of the metropolis. He visits a sort of erotic bath where he gets washed by two naked girls who chit-chat all the times despite he doesn't understand a word, and he is "invited" to a strip bar where girls dance on tables. I was a bit suprised when they showed flashes of pubic hair, but my mouth yanked wide open when they indeed showed a vagina... :nose: ... well, just as long as you need to snap your fingers, but it was clearly visible. Furthermore he finds a telephone-book-sized Hentai Manga in his (unmarried) son's apartment, and the first page he notices shows a facial cumshot. :shock: Pretty daring for a German movie I'd say, but as a Japan-fan I'm not very fond of this weilding of clichées - "Comics from Japan are all porn! And when they're not porn they're for little kids!"

Japan is being mystified by hints at working moral ("People usually work on weekends, too.") and cherryblossom philosophy (hence the title) - "They're a symbol of transience." Which is BS by the way - read this book by Ohnuki-Tierney and you'll learn that to "die like beautiful falling cherry petals" was propaganda crap made up in the early 1940s and that cherryblossoms were originally representing joy of life...

Be it as it may, glorification comes in the form of Yu, a young woman who dances Butô in Ueno Park, in memory of her mother. The concentrated East-Asian wisdom that innocently comes out of her mouth is sheerly unbelievable. Rudi learns that she is homeless and lives in a tent - in one of these trademark blue tents that visitors can see in Ueno Park and in Shinjuku. Yu is played by a rather unknown dancer named Irizuki Aya (who's so unknown she's not even in Japanese Wikipedia), whom I find very sympathetic since she's not one of these "souped-up" models you usually get to see on television, she looks and comes across very natural and speaks decently English (I'm just wondering because her accent is not what I am used to hear from Japanese).

Alienated from his son, Rudi asks Yu to show him how to do Butô dancing and help him travel to Mt. Fuji. After several days with the mountain hiding behind clouds the weather clears up and at sunrise Rudi dresses in Trudi's Kimono and dances in her place at the shore of a pond in front of Japan's most holy (and best known) mountain - and dies happily, having fulfilled his wish.

Despite the sad ending and its clichée weaknesses I was very happy seeing the movie, especially for free, because I had won the tickets in an online raffle. The story with its psychological implications is interesting as is the soundtrack, the pictures are very well chosen, and the editing is superb I'd say.

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