The Taste of Tea (2004)
The Dizzies' movie of the year was made in 2004. This doesn't matter. What does matter is that the invaluable ImaginAsian theater decided to book it for three weeks this month (I also anticipate their release of the even older Ping Pong (2002) in April).
Katsuhito Ishii's deliriously lovely family drama is first and foremost very funny. Very, very funny. From the grandfather's tuning fork non-sequitors to shoreline batting practice, Ishii concocts a stunning array of absurd comic set-pieces - it's impossible to choose a favorite among them (although I'm partial to the anime rave posedown on the subway). They're connected not only by the central node of the serene family home, but by a consistent visual style. Ishii, after lensing the initial comic set-up, pulls (way) back for a painterly landscape shot, turning his characters into dots under blue skies and power lines.
There's more to life than yuks, and as the film progresses it focuses more on character than punchlines - to the son's crush on a fellow Go-team member, daughter Sachiko's mission to complete a backflip, the uncle's impossibly tender reunion with an ex-lover, the mother's return to professional life, and supremely, the grandfather sewing up the final details of his enigmatic life. The way Ishii orchestrates the finale is heartbreakingly brilliant - tying together every wayward aspect of the plot in a few incredibly moving sketches. Then Sachiko smiles and the world is bright.
Hopefully Ishii's next film (co-directed with Hajime Ishimine and Shunichiro Miki), 2005's Funky Forest: The First Contact will wend its way over here to be The Dizzies' film of 2008. From the looks of it it can't miss:
Labels: The Taste of Tea