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Movie Review: Departures

Alternate Title: Smooth Crossings

Story: This was the film that most likely helped you lose your 2008 Oscar pool when it beat out the much favored Waltz With Bashir for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. I can understand why this film beat out the competition. It is a well directed piece by Yojiro Takita with a moving screenplay by Kundo Koyama that has much to say about living, dying and the voyage that we all eventually will take.

Daigo, a cello enthusiast loses his job with a now defunct symphony and returns to his childhood home with his adoring wife to find work and to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. In a series of comical scenes he obtains a job in a business that prepares the recently departed's body (encoffinment), in front of the grieving family, for cremation.

As Daigo learns the true meaning of death through the bereaved family, he gains maturity, respect and a new life. We get to watch the ritual of 'encoffinment' and also share in the process, the beauty and that often overused word 'closure.'

There are many scenes without dialogue that will break your heart, make you think, feel and I guarantee that you will shed a tear or two. Bravo to this fine film that is a bit over sentimental and entirely too long but has much to say.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K3vKuWyEQk

Acting: Masahiro Motoki as Daigo was wonderful and has been awarded for his work. Ryoko Hirosue as his adoring wife, Mika, is perfect. Tsutomu Yamazaki, as the boss, is moe than terrific. He reminded me of a Japanese Gregory Peck.

Trivia: Masahiro Motoki started his entertainment career as a member of boy band Shibugaki Tai who made a debut in 1982. They were top idols for the good part of the eighties in Japan. Tsutomu Yamazaki has been nominated for seven Japanese Academy Awards, winning Best Actor awards for the Juzo Itami comedies The Funeral and A Taxing Woman, and the Best Supporting Actor awards for Go and Departures. Ryoko Hirosue is also a pop star in Japan as well as an actress.

Predilection: I like to see all of the Oscar winning films.

Critters: Geese, octopus and salmon.

Food: Food has a large part in this film including octopus, puffer fish, noodles, rice, veggies and lots of chicken.

Soundtrack: Soaring music interludes that helps to bring tears to one's eyes including Bach and Brahms.

Opening Titles: An opening sequence that introduces us to the charming star before the title of the film. All other credits are at the end.

Visual Art: A beautifully shot film that includes lovely details of the homes, art and lifestyles of the people outside of the big cities.

Theater Audience: Our little group, that included a lovely Japanese woman who had seen this film in Japan, plus a fairly crowded audience. Our Japanese movie buddy said the subtitles were pretty good as far as translation goes.

Weather: The film takes us through an entire year of weather - from the cold winter to the lovely cherry blossoms in the spring.

Sappy Factor: 2

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: Although it was too long - I did not drift at all.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: I admit to it being a one tissue film for me.

Oscar Worthy: Apparently so.

Length: 15 minutes over the two hour rule.

LOBO HOWLS: 8.5