Sunday, July 8, 2018

MABOROSI: Early, much-loved movie from Hirokazu Kore-eda gets Blu-ray/DVD debut

I first encountered the work of Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (shown below) via his marvelous After Life, a bizarre, philosophic and enchantingly original riff on the post-death experience. Since then I've seen each of his subsequent films (those released here in the USA, at least) and enjoyed every one of them. Yet the movie that brought him to international attention -- MABOROSI, his first narrative film released in 1995, three years prior to After Life -- I am only now catching up with, due to its at last getting a Blu-ray/DVD release, thanks to Milestone Films.

The film is worth the wait. Not surprisingly Maborosi, which refers to a kind of strange light sometimes seen at sea, deals with so many of the themes that are clearly important to its director: family, loss, love and responsibility. Even more interestingly, TrustMovies thinks, is that fact that all these themes are dealt with in a manner even more graceful, subtle and quiet than in any of Hirokazu's later films (which are themselves pretty graceful, subtle and quiet).

While the director usually writes his original screenplays (or occasionally bases one on a manga), with Maborosi, he worked from a screenplay by Yoshihita Ogita (adapted from the novel by Teru Miyamoto). Whether he was deliberately more careful in adhering to the screenplay or it simply worked out this way, his movie is almost exquisitely calm, composed, placid and beautiful.

In telling a tale of disappearance and death, family and obligation, the director makes a rare visual poetry out of loss, grief and only very painful, difficult renewal.

Beginning with the disappearance of a much loved grandmother (above) and then all too soon the apparent suicide of a beloved husband and best friend (below), our heroine, Yumiko (Makiko Esumi), barely able to shoulder the co-responsibility of caring for a young child before her loss, now is forced to do it all nearly alone.

Still, new life beckons, and Yumiko accepts it, as a new husband and his daughter joins her and her little son, bringing them to a small, strange and beautiful -- if pretty desolate -- seaside town.

The movie relies even more on its visuals than on its rather sparse dialog to guide us along, and because those visuals are so beautifully composed (the cinematography is by Nasao Nakabori), we follow effortlessly. And though we are told of those illusory seafaring lights, the film itself is so full of odd, dark and beautiful lighting effects (as above and below) that it very nearly becomes its own "Maborosi."

Our heroine (as well as we viewers) wants nothing more than explanation. We expect that things -- important things -- will be revealed. Nothing ever is. Perhaps that is the point: Nothing conclusive can be revealed.

Yes, the past is always present and always will be -- until memory leaves us. The point is not allowing that past to engulf us but rather moving ahead. All of the filmmaker's work seems to underscore this. The beauty and poetry he gives us in the process is what makes that work so special.

From The Milestone Cinematheque and running 110 minutes. Maborosi arrives on Blu-ray/DVD  this coming Tuesday, July 10 -- for purchase and (I hope) rental.

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