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THE FIRST TIMERS

Japan, 1999 (MIFF 1999, Regional Features)

Director: Isao Morimoto

Robert Nicholas, a drifting journalist in his mid-30s, nar­rates this painfully beautiful film as Boku ('I' in Japanese). In early 1989, Boku is a foreign student of Japanese Literature at a university in Kyoto. He lives in a crowded, filthy share house in the ancient, exotic city. Despite the length of his stay be is seen as a permanent 'Ichigensan', a first time visitor and outsider

Passionate about his studies and books, Boku volun­teers to visit with and read aloud to a young blind woman, Kyoko. Their time together, reading and talking, draws the couple closer and a gentle romance blossoms. Boku is amazed at the acuity of Kyoko's senses, her life seems to be richer than his own sighted existence.

Alongside this involvement, Boku struggles with his ongoing status as an outsider. Everyday encounters leave him insulted and his final thesis is judged a disap­pointing failure due to the incorrect use of a single word. His frustrations mount and place stress on the most important relationship of his life

The First Timers is a rare gift, a gentle, simple yet rich film that charts the progress of love in timeless fash­ion. Australian cinematographer Peter Borosh captures the architecture, gardens and streets of Kyoto magnificently— his use of colour and composition is breathtaking. The perfect atmospheric musical accompaniment is provided by Japanese duo S.E.N.S. who provided the soundtrack for Hou Hsiao-hsien's award-winning City of Sadness (1989).

Based on David Zoppetti's partially autobiographi­cal novel, The First Timers communicates a real sense of alienation within a community while striving to gain acceptance. The emotional turbulence and heartache in trying to accommodate both passion and rejection, and reconcile conflicting personal status, is depicted with moving authenticity. A heart-warming experience.

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