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THE FUNERAL

Japan, 1985 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Juzo Itami

In contemporary Japan, away from cities and concrete buildings, the Shinkichi Amamiya is spending a quiet and serene life with his wife Kikue at their son-in-law's summer house.

His son-in-law Wabisuke Inoue and wife Chizuko, both actors, are shooting a commercial movie, when they are told that their father passed away. They leave on the same evening with their two children and their manager Satomi, who has, in the meanwhile, collected as much cash as he could for all the expenses. As Chizuko is the elder daughter, her husband will be the chief mourner. It is a completely new role for him and he is quite scared.

The undertaker addresses him and the whole family with the condescension of the one-who-is-quite-accustomed and he gives all the details concerning the different choices which can be made for the coffin, the ceremony, the flowers, and he also gives indications on the rate for the priest's service.

With Chizuko's help, Wabisuke tries to memorize his role in watching a TV tape showing a standard funeral, with the most appropriate thank-you speech.

The brother of the deceased is worrying endlessly about the corpse comfort and insists that the coffin be oriented taking into account the cardinal points.

As it would be too sad to forget the good time spent together, a home-movie is shot all through the preparation of the wake.

The priest arrives in a smashing white limousine and is much more interested in the garden furniture than in bringing sympathy to the bereaved family.

Under the disguise of a smiling but ferocious elegy, the film shows the three days of the funeral: the wake, during which people in Japan usually eat and drink a lot, the ceremony when the neighbours and friends come to bring their financial participation on that day. A windgust scatters the banknotes away, causing a quite unexpected but hilarious confusion - and the cremation which brings everybody back to reality and reminds them that, even if they had had the feeling of becoming real stars, the whole thing was not exactly a stage performance.

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