With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

ACF 292: Departures

Departures / Okuribito
Directed by Yojiro Takita
Starring Masaniro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue,
and Tsutomu Yamazaki
Japan, 2007, 130 min.

Last Friday night I was part of a large, fortunate audience at a special pre-release screening of this wonderful film. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars, and deservedly so.

Daigo Kobayashi (Masamiro Motoki) loses his job as a cellist when his orchestra is dissolved. His wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) agrees to moving from Tokyo back to Yamagata, his home town, where they can live in a building his deceased mother left to him.

Daigo and his boss, Ikuei Sasaki, show their respect for the dead

Daigo answers an employment ad that he thinks pertains to a job in the travel industry because it features the word "departures." He's shocked to find out from his would-be employer Mr. Sasaki (Tsumotomu Yamazaki) that the ad had a misprint and that the job is learning how to assist in "encoffination" of deceased persons. This is the ritualistic preparation of the body for cremation.

Boss Sasaki, receptionist Yuriko Kamimura(Kimiko Yo)
and Daigo enjoy a holiday meal together

Fortunately this film, while nominally about death, is anything but morbid. Touching, yes. And funny at times as well. But morbid? No.

Director Takita and lead actor Motoki were present to answer some questions after the screening Friday night. I'll have more to say about the film and their responses in the next few weeks prior to the movie's theatrical release in the U.S. at the end of this month. For now, let me just reiterate that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got it right this year in giving the Oscar to Departures.

Daigo makes a special offering to Mika

Departures will be opening May 29th at three theaters in New York City, and at other locations. Check local listings for online tickets or visit the film's website at www.departures-themovie.com.

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