Still Walking

"Aren't you glad we finally got rid of those pesky parents."

Yui Natsukawa and Hiroshi Abe have a moment alone

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Japan; 2008

114 min.

Starring Hiroshi Abe and Yui Natsukawa

In Short: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking is a film that is very familiar, with themes and emotions that have been covered well by many previous films, perhaps most closely reminiscent of Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece Tokyo Story. One could say that it’s been done before, but that doesn’t stop Still Walking from being an enormously touching and well crafted film that ranks among the best of the past few years.

Review: A family reunites for a family lunch on the death anniversary of the eldest son, Junpei. His younger brother, Ryota, is reluctant to come to the reunion, asking his wife Yukari why she didn’t fake having a conference to go to so they’d have an excuse to stay home. Ryota and his stepson form the emotional center of the film, in contrast to the family patriarch Kyohei, who seems to be bitter about the way Ryota’s life has turned out, and the matriarch Toshiko, bitter about her son’s death.

Kore-eda handles his film with a sense of grace and subtlety most often compared to Yasujiro Ozu, though in an interview with the A.V. Club (http://www.avclub.com/articles/hirokazu-koreeda,32939/) he explains that his stylistics are actually more influenced by the greatly underrated master Mikio Naruse  (I had read this interview at least a year before I finally had a chance to see the film; somehow it stuck with me). Which ever director he’s more influenced by, what is undeniable is that every single shot in Still Walking is beautifully composed, most of them static shots which allow the actors to move around the screen, rather than having the camera move around the actors.

What struck me, however, as I walked home after the screening, was that I felt like I’d seen the film before in numerous different ways. The most common comparison is Ozu’s Tokyo Story, but I found myself having flashbacks of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Time to Live, Time to Die, and perhaps most obscurely, one transcendent moment later in the film reminded me of Yu Hyeon-Mok’s Rainy Days. These are all films that I love very much, all sharing certain similarities and differences in their narratives and styles. Does that mean that this art film that I watched, one that I loved so much, is actually quite formulaic? Tokyo Story, Yi Yi, and Time to Live, Time to Die in particular all share a similar sense of stylistic minimalism, and all deal with families, deaths, and other hardships, similar to Still Walking. Are we fooling ourselves by applauding endlessly for each one, despite the similarities?

Well, no. Compare any of these films to maudlin rubbish like The Stepmom or your average mainstream melodrama and its pretty clear that filmmakers like Ozu, Hou, Yang, and now Kore-eda truly have the skill above and beyond their counterparts. Even in comparison to the much lauded Japanese film Departures (which I kind of liked) a film like Still Walking has subtle stylistic advantages that help it stand head and shoulders above its competition.

On top of all that, there’s one last thing that makes me feel justified in calling this film a masterpiece: I actually liked Still Walking more than all but one of the classics I listed above.

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About Adam DiPiazza
I love Peach Snapple.

One Response to Still Walking

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on Japan: Air Doll « Forced Perspective

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