Departures (おくりびと)

It made me laugh, it made me cry, and in the end, it made me hopeful.

A beautifully filmed story about Dai Kobayshi, a failed cellist who returns to his hometown in Yamagata from the urban jungle of Tokyo, and ends up curiously as a encoffiner.  From the understated sentiments and expressions to gorgeous scenery to very likeable characters to unique and at times surprisingly funny moments that come with the process of encoffinment, there’s a lot of appreciate in this movie.  It can be a bit formulaic at times,  with a bit of heavy handedness from the plot and direction in terms of tone, but also very effective in its poignancy.

This view on smaller town life in Japan focused on the everyday life and people, with their quirks and humor, but also clearly about death.  The movie is very good at showing the macabre associations with death, the actual preparation of the bodies, along with the emotional associations and the importance of closure through the enconffinment process, but also, curiously uplifting in its message.  The end of the movie fittingly ends with a death, but also with life with relics from Kobayashi’s past, which makes the whole movie seem almost too perfectly circular.

Although this was a beautifully filmed movie, touching, poignant and uplifting, I’m not sure it will be everyone’s cup of tea all the time, since it will likely at least make you tear up…$9

If you heart Departures:

Recommendations from …:
Beaches
The Wrestler
Boy A

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Special

Special

Michael Rapaport is on-point as Les, a naive and tragic hero as an ex-meter maid.  Special successfully executes the difficult task of packing many genres into one movie.  Special is suspenseful, darkly humorous, and dramatic all at the same time.  There are many moments to laugh out-loud, and then step into a scene that makes your heart drops to your heels.   Much of the dark humor relies on the bizarre delusions of Les who appears to be in the throes of a severe manic episode.  However, the delight in watching, as the story unravels, comes from the well-crafted story that makes you wonder: maybe he does have super powers? Well-selected cast and fitting score.  This is a sadly under-appreciated movie that definitely deserves a viewing . . . $10

If you heart Special:

Recommendations from Yolkie:
Science of Sleep
The Wrestler
Stranger Than Fiction

Recommendations from Sneak da Keek:
American Splendor
Me and You and Everyone We Know
A Scanner Darkly

Trailer: Special

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