Having seen Doris Dörrie's lovely and amazing (to crib a Nicole Holofcener phrase) CHERRY BLOSSOMS only a few days prior to reading Jan Stuart's excellent piece on this long-time writer/director in last Sunday's New York Times, I experienced a pleasant gust of memory at the many pleasures this movie offers. I've been a fan -- off and on -- of the films of Ms Dörrie (shown below) ever since my first experience with her
1985 comedy Men. Since then, I've found her output a little up and down, but the last three films I've seen Enlightement Guaranteed, How to Cook Your Life and now Cherry Blossoms, have tipped me over into her fold, where I expect to remain.
In telling her story of an older couple, Rudi and Trudi -- one of whom at the outset receives some bad news -- Ms Dörrie compiles a wonder of small details: Trudi ironing away a teardrop, the couple sharing her sweater for warmth, scarves used to mark locations. These little moments slowly build into an indelible story. From a visit by the couple to their children, one of whom works in Japan, the movie carries us to the east and to Butoh dance, first via a concert given in Germany and then through the film's third indelible character, a young Japanese girl played winningly by Aya Irizuki, show below, right, and at top, wrapped.
For older viewers, in particular, an interesting by-product of watching this film is the awareness it brings of how much has changed in our world regarding Germany and Japan. Our country's two greatest enemies when I was a child have now combined to offer us a film full of peace and love -- and not the usual cliché way. What the movie manages to do -- its great strength, really -- is to put us westerners in touch with thoughts and feelings about primal things -- family life, love and death -- and then offer new ways of experiencing them that I can only describe as "eastern." Dörrie and her splendid cast and crew coax us gently into a different world, where we remain for only two hours (this is a movie, after all). But having been in this place, even briefly, may leave us slightly changed. I've heard the film described as a "weepie." It is nothing of the sort. If anything, we finish it with a sense of peace about some of the very things that sadden and/or frighten us the most. Dörrie's closing shot involves a marker. This is appropriate because her film itself can be perceived as a kind of marker, guiding us on our journey.
The diverse distributor Strand Releasing is opening Cherry Blossoms this Friday in NYC at one of my favorite venues, the Landmark Sunshine Cinema. I suggest a visit. I also hope the film will receive at least a limited roll-out nationally. It'll undoubtedly come to DVD in time, and since it was made on video, watching it that way should not lessen its impact.