Saturday, June 20, 2009

Departures (2008)




As Asian moviegoers heartily laughed at moments and situations which seemed unhumorous to this frequent denizen of the cinema, the thought crystallized with utmost exactitude, swiftly appearing like a person who had been interminably sitting alongside you for so long that they had gradually dissolved for an inestimable period of time. With exponential fierceness, the voluminous gamut the mind so meticulously runs through was conquered. Departures, directed by Yojiro Takita from a screenplay by Kundo Kayama, is a firmly Nipponese dramatic journal detailing the wistful hope of compromise between a culture's deeply ingrained stigmas of death and its own duteous veneration of those who pass on with euphonious humanism. The picture is at times tonally wandering and disordered, its episodic construct sometimes giving way to ostensible incoherence and overwhelmingly instinctive and facile manipulation. Yet as time passes its greater, more perdurable qualities tend to partly supersede and diminish its blemishes and deviances.

Departures is, intriguingly, however, itself a departure from popular Japanese cinematic perceptions. This disconsonantly diametric stance—antipodal and complementary all at once, steeped in Japanese traditions and simultaneously tottering about in search of a highly significant rapprochement with occidentally treasured modernism—nearly necessitates such drastic modifications and alterations to Departures' inflection. Determining how much of this vacillation is more mundanely tied to the demands of Takita's filmmaking—Departures' morbid subject matter and attendant heartache arguably call for audience-softening badinage, jocoseness and even some limited forays into near-slapstick—remains literally recondite. The story is of Daigo Kobayashi, fledgling cellist, turned encoffinner apprentice. (It should be noted that the film's most robust humor is intrinsically tied to the Japanese fear of uncleanliness, chiefly derived in this picture from the corpses with which the protagonist must routinely deal.) Insofar as Departures evidences social impediments, it does not follow through with the strenuous strictures which laced Akira Kurosawa's own socially conscious explorations of bodily and spiritual decrepitude leading to gradational putrefaction of the noumenal (pace Kant) and rectification of the discarnate. In that it too deals with the moribund certainty that follows infirmity and senectitude, Departures most immediately calls to mind Ikiru, though the catholic mien of the picture shrouds the subtextually grimy and complex sociological realism of Kurosawa's oeuvre—but perhaps more apropos would be Drunken Angel with a paternal older man overlooking the addling progression of a young, unsure man.

It is in this regard where Departures makes its most pointed claim as being a film worth seeking out on Father's Day weekend. The film's hero, Daigo (a fairly sensitive, but occasionally quite overbearing Masahiro Motoki), suffers from continual Oedipal longing and disquietude due to his father abandoning him when he was at a tender age. Daigo's employer, a stereotypically crusty, amusingly soft-spoken old man named Ikuei Sasaki (a warmly tender Tsutomo Yamazaki) oversees Diago's budding maturation as a man. In one memorable scene, Diago, after having been humiliated by those for whom he cares once they have learned what he does, and now wishing to quit his job, goes upstairs from the front office of the encoffining establishment, to where Ikuei lives, only to be unwittingly persuaded to not leave by the old man's tale of how he became an encoffiner and embalmer—his dearly departed wife was the first person for whom he plied his newfound trade.

Daigo's peregrination from cellist to encoffiner finds greater artistic resonance through director Takita's compassionate staging of Daigo's physical manipulation of the corpses which are so stigmatized by the salubriously hygienic parameters of Shinto as unclean. As Daigo and Ikuei enact one ritualized passing after another for the deceased, however, it becomes apparent that they are in their own, loving way, appeasing and honoring Kami. Takita's compositional focus, aided greatly by cinematographer Takeshi Hamada, finds Daigo and Ikuei's respective journeys—one ebbing, the other still rising—as parables, not so much demystifying the “casketeering” process, but impeccably detailing it. Avoiding prosaic linkings between the phenomena and the process, Takita and Hamada conspire to create a honeyed placidness out of colors like Japanese water painting. The oriental-occidental cross-cultural conversation has been ongoing for a long time now: each side has commented on each other's redoubtable attributes, whether they be artistic, political or otherwise. Monet's inspiration from Japanese water prints leading to his creation of the water garden, with weeping willows, water lilies, wisteria and bamboo, which further inspired him to create some of his most gorgeous paintings such as the Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies. Viewing Departures, it may be said that Takita has been inspired by Monet, particularly in the transcendental light that accompanies so many of the rooms in which Daigo works. The pictorial communication between European and Asian artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries continues, and cinema has helped to make it only more comprehensive.

The beams of sunlight that slice through rooms and people, the hot, smoking grills and pans on which food is promptly cooked, the golden kerosene lamps, all equally dulcify and anticipate the fiery cremation which awaits those in whom Daigo invests so much time, patience and care. Daigo's musically trained, and expertly dexterous fingers and hands, caress the dead with singular circumspection. The act of beautification is not solely intended to satiate the Kami or the departed, but those who in life held the deceased dear to their heart. Ministerial considerations can only go so far; with a deeply empathizing credulity, one man informs Daigo and his employer that his wife never looked so beautiful in life as she did after they had finished transforming her from a sallow corpse to a ravishing alter-avatar of herself, readying her for the transmigration about which characters repeatedly speak.

Unfortunately, Departures is not satisfied to be a touching tale of acceptance of an ostracized vocation, and excavation of Japan's complicated, tiered social stratas, but by the endmost chapter, Daigo's throes of Oedipal dejection and bitterness are purified in an unnecessary and maudlinly lachrymose denouement. Takita's direction finally slackens in discipline; the score by Joe Hisaishi, often swelling at dramatic points, becomes too distracting for the sake of the imagery it is intended to support. At this point, Departures has departed the track on which it had succeeded, depicting Daigo's debilitating troubles stemming from his father's abandonment as the firing table from which the remainder of the tale emanated. The risk of unwarranted manipulation seems to not deter Takita, however, as he at the very least finds the encircling ardency of feeling to convey something meaningful, if not especially fruitful. Departures is fittingly organic in that way, as it chronicles the nearly agestral-like naturalness of the decomposition of the human body, touched up afterwards. Departures becomes overripe in its concluding passage, but that does not take everything away from its lovelier properties.

53 comments:

Joseph "Jon" Lanthier said...

I resolutely agree, and much of this seems to dove-tail splendidly with my far less articulate write-up for Slant Magazine. I thought it an oddly "un-Japanese" like film for the country to have nominated to the Oscars, but I think that was part of the point; and certainly Japan has just as much right to be saccharine and histrionic as we do. That having been said, like you I found the subtle symbolism of the encoffinment process itself most rewarding both aesthetically and subtextually -- I like the connection with Monet, too, though I doubt he would have painted a cellist playing passionately against a laughably bucolic backdrop. And the ending, indeed, was far too weepy and clichéd, but in retrospect it's the film's quiet wonders that stay with you, rather than the missteps. Not a bad Father's Day pick at all, and I wish both you and your paterfamilias the best.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you, Jon. I'll be sure to take a look at what you wrote on this film in Slant Magazine as soon as I'm able. I agree with you that this is "an oddly 'un-Japanese' like film for the country to have nominated to the Oscars, but I think that was part of the point"--very true! And I concur with this, "...certainly Japan has just as much right to be saccharine and histrionic as we do." Indeed. Very similar thoughts were going through my mind as the picture was winding down.

I also agree, quite humorously, with your comment about Monet probably not painting a lone cellist playing against a "laughably bucolic backdrop." Ha!

Once again, thank you most sincerely, Jon. And I'll be sure to take a look at your piece on this film, as I find that many don't seem to like it much.

Have a great Father's Day weekend yourself, and I reciprocate kindly by wishing both you and your paterfamilias the best.

Sam Juliano said...

Well Alexander, either IKIRU or THE DRUNKEN ANGEL can be recalled here, as well as a recent Japanese film by Kore-eda titled AFTERLIFE, which also accentuates the contemporary Japanese infatuation with death, also evidenced in part in a number of other features. Wow, you never cease to amaze me. I watched this film hypnotically, and while my opinion is much closer to Jon Lanthier's than it is to yours, I commend you for not denying this this often beautiful film your patented exhaustive analytical and thematic treatment. The Oedipal side to the main character of course is obvious from the get-go, and it's further emphasized rather heavy-handedly in that over-the-top denouement replete with that annoying Smiling Mike wife (rather a cardboard character) overlooking the proceedings. I was fascinated with your elaboration in Paragraph 2 of the Japanese's film's "departure" from perceptions and those fabulous delineations, likewise I must say I am really imprssed with what you say here in this paragraph (and how you say it):

"Daigo's peregrination from cellist to encoffiner finds greater artistic resonance through director Takita's compassionate staging of Daigo's physical manipulation of the corpses which are so stigmatized by the salubriously hygienic parameters of Shinto as unclean. As Daigo and Ikuei enact one ritualized passing after another for the deceased, however, it becomes apparent that they are in their own, loving way, appeasing and honoring Kami. Takita's compositional focus, aided greatly by cinematographer Takeshi Hamada, finds Daigo and Ikuei's respective journeys—one ebbing, the other still rising—as parables, not so much demystifying the “casketeering” process, but impeccably detailing it!"

Fantastic!

I must say Alexander, I could have used less shots of our protagonist playing his cello in the wind-swept fields (that was saccharine genre manipulation) but the film had a strange, albit cultural resonance which not only commented on the troublesome Japanese economy, but also on the mysticism that informs stubborn adherence to old religious customs. I thought another "bridge" to the current period was the death in the open scene of a transsexual, and of the love-hate relationship he had with his/her siblings. It was a disquieting moment that dictated the strange flow and context of this film, which despite some very apparent flaws, connects emotionally, and reveals some intriguing cultural mores. I keep going back and forth between 3 1/2 and 4 (of 5) for this one.

Ah, what a tremendous review, and I mean it sincerely. I am NOT patronizing you.

Alexander Coleman said...

Sam, I truly and deeply appreciate your thoroughly stirring comment, and I thank you for the profusely kind words.

Jon, you and I all agree about some of the film's shortcomings, even if you are kinder to the film than I. I agree that the wife was something of a cardboard caricature creation--and yet I couldn't dislike her as other critics have. The actress was largely able to make the character seem believable, and in that way I think her performance is being underrated. The lead actor occasionally annoyed me--but some of the fault was with the direction, which was harmed by an overreliance on stifling close-ups. (The silly Sound of Music-like shots of Daigo playing his cello were too rich for the rest of the film's palette.)

However, the film has many fine attributes, and though I wasn't sure how I felt about the picture once I left the theatre, over time its finer moments seemed to drown out most of the problems I had with the film.

In any event, I'm always happy to see someone like a film more than I did, because it means they were perhaps more receptive to its inner meaning, whereas I allowed myself to be bothered by certain blemishes. Nonetheless, I find myself liking the film the more I get away from it.

And Jon, I read your Slant Magazine piece a little earlier today and loved it! Our pieces do dove-tail with one another quite "splendidly," as you write.

Thank you both for your fantastic comments on this Japanese picture.

Eustace said...

Oh my god, there's a great deal of useful material in this post!
site

Peter said...

This can't work as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I believe.
current events 2011 | plumbing supplies toronto | den decorating ideas

Jeffrey said...

Really helpful data, lots of thanks for your post.
Dips recipes | indianapolis hotels downtown | tax deduction car donation | lawyers charlotte nc | st christopher medal meaning

mrblack said...

Thank you, Jon. I'll be sure to take a look at what you wrote on this film in Slant Magazine as soon as I'm able. I agree with you that this is "an oddly 'un-Japanese' like film for the country to have nominated to the Oscars, but I think that was part of the point"--very true! And I concur with this, "...certainly Japan has just as much right to be saccharine and histrionic as we do." Indeed. Very similar thoughts were going through my mind as the picture was winding down.
Richmond Hill Real Estatepromotion guadeloupe

Uno said...

me to enjoy a nice evening. But the truth is no monster at all. Every time he smirked back at me smiling triumphantly.
accomodation hervey baysecurity bekleidung auf rechnung kaufen

Uno said...

who have a loved one, they always want the person next to them. But understanding is one thing, that is one thing to accept.
Chinese Wedding DressWiz Khalifa mixtapes

Uno said...

The circuit of his heart beating, the condensation of em. The body you always sensitive than his. The doctor
set up a swiss companymet vrouwen/, seks met vrouwen

Uno said...

destruction of them. Because the trees are suffering on a daily kick the ball without mercy, as he leaves she leaves she leaves fall that we, and
MLS Mississaugaoutdoor bean bags

Uno said...

green frog (that asserts that Junsu tadpole) my empty after a summer, he is thinking on whether to do for my gifts to atone. Aish ~ O money bag ...
Catering Atlantacounselling service for you

Uno said...

If I go, I'll cry instead? Will hook the following graph: I'd love it, really want you to cry, want you to beg me to stay.
Voiceoversdoboy flow wrapper

Uno said...

Today was a work day spree. Does anyone please remember this is for my birthday this? It's unfair. To get up really early every day 1 hour, and from
buy replica watchesLady Elliot Island

Uno said...

Sagittarius is never angry for long. But see two little angels up on the stem so the boy excited about flying rings around the air, gliding quickly
Best Mobile Phonesmobile bagno

Uno said...

Brown hair rebels poured by tilting rhythm. The legs move fast, very flexible waist, hands flexible. For the first time in my life, open-mouthed Yunho
holiday to antiguaMusic for Documentaries

Uno said...

"Do not ask how I know!" - He breathed - "I say I study of criminal psychology that! Jaejoong oh ... "- he suddenly drop his mouth to your ear, whispering -" Yesterday I said then ... I only like him as well. Only thing ... I do not have the opportunity to kill someone. "
foundation ventsAuto Warranty Quote

Uno said...

Surely, from the day my mother suddenly pale and emaciated. That day, my skeptical mind that she is a white dawn. Waking up the
solid shedsAudi AC Compressor

Uno said...

he smiled back. Smile as the first day I met. It's lightweight, very light, disappear. I disappear. Left him. He found me panic. I disappear.
barbados holidaysstrengthsfinder test

Uno said...

dangerous than usual, gets out of control as his normal insecurity. Jaejoong started to suspect that the other 16 named dead without his involvement
tablet androidrechargeable lights

Uno said...

"Well, I know, captain name is mentioned once, you too!" - Yunho nodded, took a pillow on the couch down and leaned against the door further. From yesterday until now, he is not forbidden to enter the room.
cheap wedding ringsCar Warranty

Uno said...

understand why he is so angry when he was distracted in the hair. He could not understand why so angry when he heard his name called Young Woung. He did not understand everything about him.
product reviewssmall house plans

Uno said...

He and his separated by a glass, always so. Just a glass only. Water surface does not oscillate when placing a glass cup to her mouth. Is a mirror. As a mirror is visible can be handled, or break the ... so he can lick it.
usb-key bedrucktrestaurants en Israël

Uno said...

but all story suddenly reversed and become so convenient for me so I would not have watched anymore? Next time, just you cooperate, I will do my best to make him have a little emotional for me, so immediate. "
pull up banner standsfree texting

Uno said...

"What's important is not" U? He heard their spicy spicy nose, eyes blurry image before him away. Wrong then, it is about to cry. It quickly turned away, said quickly, "Oh, nothing. Well, Chun went to bed. Chun looks tired with Gil. "
Siesta Key Condo RentalsPhen375

Uno said...

course, cause it sure how everyone knows so I do not need repeating. So the answer to that question will come in time? No one anticipated, so the only thing they can do is
western wedding invitationsstop thinning hair

Uno said...

Fragment, it moved deep into the eyes off the chair and the other pair in a few seconds to look into fish-pig-stupid-stupid and apathetic his hyung you're sitting next to the distance.
estimating softwarewholesale ladies socks

Uno said...

Planet fields white with white hair and white dream Jaejoong also white. The season runs blazing noon barriers and bare hands without any sweat. The planet should not Jaejoong sun never sweats
raspberry ketoneBest prices of Color doppler Ultrasound scanners

Uno said...

~ There are evening stroll on the beach, no one took cold hands, he is often remembered for his hand inside the window curtain fell color white, remembered the gentle melody
custom home plansbuilding customer loyalty

Uno said...

would dart around the house to find that I do not know. He wanted to hug him comforted, telling him he needed to know the house is located in the heart of his hand
tarotbreitling replica watches

Uno said...

Just like every day, this morning when he wakes up, he was still asleep in the thick pink blanket, pillow liners hand, hold the red car,
cursos guionanger management

Uno said...

He sat by the window, look no pillow breasts, wrinkled white shirt is thrown. He looked somewhere far away where the sky outside,
productoras cineinsanity

Uno said...

I see wrinkles on the forehead or the ticket bucket rolled together to hear the boy replied, shaking her shoulders beneath the thin layer of blue uniforms
Daycare Franchisewholesale wedding dresses

Uno said...

forgotten by time. Hamlet tiny ramshackle wooden houses always have that service the rails replaced with the word modern apartment. Trang "JJ" in place of amusement park for children. The
cheap tickets to middle eastTalkswitch phone system

Uno said...

the winding road home looks like the moon is suspended between the night, throwing a ball just absorbed Yunho foot pedal constantly. At times, I just want forever night time.
MLS.caIgrice

Uno said...

I tried to explain the actions of Yunho Jeolado beach that day again, do not dare to return despite his frantic mind. And America, nor for my time to that pain.
hotels in MussoorieFisher Space pens

Uno said...

stripping and also thoang creaking gate and sighed. Only thing, I go alone and Yellow Hat is dead. Somewhere in me, something was constantly changing.
houtstructuur folieOperational Excellence Consulting

Uno said...

raised me growing up with the pain that they suffered after I'm gone. I can not take your pain that torture on others. Conscience does not allow me to
Baltimore Wedding Limovaporizers

Uno said...

raised me growing up with the pain that they suffered after I'm gone. I can not take your pain that torture on others. Conscience does not allow me to
Baltimore Wedding Limovaporizers

Uno said...

Yunho did not remember that day why I do, when the hand is small, fragile and weak was made ​​that he did not hesitate to seize it. Give him a chance, a chance for himself ... he forgot to redo everything from scratch.
keratin hair treatmentCurrys Promotional Codes

Uno said...

He went out that he sat dully forever ... Like I said it, he and his two loves to practice nhau.Noi to sentence him suddenly flushed again ... How about love? He loved you but never thought to feel the love .. Actually, love is like?
modular bookcase
pdf split

Uno said...

restroom accessories
Backyard Swing Sets

or not successful, just that long ago were no longer see a smile on the lips of the missing owner. As expected ever notice that beauty is also tragic.

Uno said...

Many people just quietly watching the fine picture of the nature that let the sigh, real evil prince, only to sacrifice his son to accomplish goals. That purpose whether
it support london
les petites annonces gratuites

Uno said...

Open window frame, cold wind rushed into the hearing. Four walls of pure white marble with little colored remains of the day, gloomy throbbing heart. The scene is like welcoming people from death at the same time a farewell again left out of the earth ...
Commercial Popcorn Machines
bad debtors

Uno said...

It was a dark black eyes, but if one looks closely will see hidden between the black was a blood red circle. The eyes of the Uchiha clan illustrious.
pdf invoice
Compare the Market

Uno said...

jingle. Teapot with more than half but was still comfortable smoke spiraling up. Both are still immersed deep in private thoughts, but make sure to say, the word, they will be at odds with each other so
electronic signature
bbq catering brisbane

Uno said...

Why can not people live together in faith and hope? Why is the ambition of the king order still burning like a thousand generations could not fire extinguished?
musical Instruments Denver
cartoon logos

Uno said...

The three shadows swept away under the stairs hun smoking. Building the rain drowned out by the commonplace and dreary. Blood filters into the ground forming the dark circular marks saddened.
top free dating sites
Libros gratis

Hals said...

I found this film exceedingly cliched and a big-time bore. I love sci-fi (its one of my favorite genres as it is yours, and over the years I've celebrated THE FOUNTAIN, A.I., and GATTACA among others, not to mention the three you cite, 2001, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and SOLARIS) but this fiasco never came together. It was cryptic and muddled, and only Clint Mansell's exquisite score survived the debacle.
lolita dukker
pet crate

dragon Ball

cheap prom dresses said...

Welcome back. I have missed your blog the past couple of months. I am not one to take in horror movies, and in reading your review, I'll make sure not to see this one either. But, I enjoyed your review, your insights and the unpredictablity of your blog. You are quite a writer.

Ajay Nguyen said...

great , try out new website about LOL , aim on Penta Kill Band on LOL , inclule Sona , Yorick , Olaf , Karthus etc...
Pentakill Band from League of Legend
From Pentakill Band - Prelude in C minor
Legendary Band - Writting History

Anonymous said...

We apologize, but we must ask that the following comment with spam link be removed. We did not authorize this and are sorry for the inconvenience. Uno said...

dangerous than usual, gets out of control as his normal insecurity. Jaejoong started to suspect that the other 16 named dead without his involvement
tablet androidrechargeable lights
January 5, 2012 at 8:42 AM