15 December 2010

Movie review: Still Walking, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

It is interesting reading other reviews for this movie, which demonstrate the possibility of experiencing the same thing so differently. Still Walking is 'a comedy of manners', reminiscent of the movies of Eric Rohmer. (Comedy as distinct from tragedy, not in the sense of being humorous.) Like a haiku, nothing is brightly coloured, overstated, or has the impoliteness to stand out in some way. Typical of Japanese etiquette, the characters rarely say or act on what they really mean, and this is revealed only as the story unfolds. Characterisation is superbly handled through script, direction and acting. Unlike in western movies, there are neither heroes/saints, nor dastards/demons. It would be too easy to watch this movie through western eyes and miss the subtle, the nuanced, and the quiet reversals that culminate in overall balance. In western culture it is held that the more deeply an emotion is felt, the more extremely it is expressed. However, the expression of emotions addressed in this Japanese drama is muted: it is possible to arrive by another route at a sense of how deeply those emotions are felt. The movie is perfectly paced for its material (not the high-octane outbursts of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, or of Look Back in Anger), but may be considered intolerably slow by people who enjoy thrillers, adventure movies and rom coms. (Instead, think Tarkovsky.) Unlike a Woody Allen movie, Still Walking is not an easy watch, requiring concentration and attention, although neither is it especially difficult: the plot, such as it is, is interesting enough for me not to require it to entertain me cheaply (even though I enjoy the jokes in Wasabi). There is no feel-good pay-off at the end. There is no 'the end' (c.f. Lost in Translation). I do not know the other work of director Hirokazu Kore-eda, but I now feel motivated to find out more.