is nothing like discovering a body to hasten the coming of age process.
Frankly, sixteen year-old Kaito could maybe use the kick-start. His prospective
girlfriend Kyoko has also offered encouragement, but he has been slow to fully
respond in Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water
(clip here), which
screens during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
an island like Aami Oshima, typhoons are a fact of life. As a result, residents
necessarily have a heightened awareness of the natural and spiritual worlds.
This is particularly true of Kyoko’s mother Isa. As a shaman, she has always
navigated between the divine and terrestrial planes. Unfortunately, she will
soon crossover for good, as she slowly succumbs to a terminal illness.
Kyoko, Kaito is not a native islander and he definitely does not share her
affinity for the ocean. Having recently moved from Tokyo with his mother
Misaki, following her divorce from his tattoo artist father, Kaito carried
quite a bit of baggage with him. Yet, he slowly starts to form a connection
with Kyoko, even though she is preparing herself for her mother’s imminent
is sort of a lover-her-or-hate-her filmmaker. If you require plotty narrative
and zippy dialogue, than keep looking. However, if you are enraptured by grand
natural vistas invested with sense of deeper mystical portent, this is the film
for you. Like Kawase’s Mourning Forest (ironically
a more demanding, yet more emotionally resonant work), Still looks lovely (although not quite as arresting as Forest). Cinematographer Yutaka Yamazaki
gives it a shimmering, slightly nostalgic vibe not unlike the Kore-eda films he
previously lensed, particularly Still Walking. Hashiken’s score also serves as an effective mood-setter, evoking
western string ensemble chamber music, with a hint of traditional Japanese
Kawase’s loose approach to narrative, there is considerable inequity between
the film’s two main forks, represented by Kyoko and Kaito. It is impossible not
to be moved by Kyoko’s parents, savoring the family’s simple pleasures together
while they can. As Kyoko, Jun Yoshinaga’s eyes seem to leap out of the screen
and peer into your soul. Likewise, the rugged Tetta Sugimoto and ethereal
Miyuki Matsuda are genuinely touching, conveying years of shared history in a
word or a gesture.
contrast, Kaito is supposed to be a bit of a pill—and Nijiro Murakami plays him
accordingly. Considering the quiet and meditative tone of much of the film, his
scenes of awkward melodrama stick out rather conspicuously.
At two hours almost on the dot, Still could have stood a bit of pruning,
especially the inconsistent third act. Editor Tina Baz must have lost a lot of
arguments to Kawase. It is an undisciplined film, but it is often beautiful.
Those who appreciate “slow cinema” will find much to see and hear. Recommended
circumspectly for Kawase’s admirers and filmgoers who prioritize atmosphere
above all else, Still the Water screens
again tomorrow (9/14) at this year’s TIFF.
Labels: Japanese Cinema, Naomi Kawase, TIFF '14