Moe No Suzaku

Director Naomi Kawase / 1997 / Japan

Naomi Kawase's first feature film confirms the talent shown by her poignantly poetic prize-winning shorts. In a magnificent cedar-forested mountain setting, exquisitely filmed by veteran cameraman Masaki Tamura, Kawase has created an elegy for the decline of a remote village community and the breakdown of the extended family, as they both fall victim to the dictates of 'progress' and bureaucratic decision making.

Though minimalist and oblique in narrative, the film has a purity of vision and powerful rhythm that is nothing less than majestic. Through patient and tender detailing of domes­tic routines and scenes of departure, Kawase conveys with understated pathos the largely unspoken feelings of desire, grief and loss expe­rienced by the members of one extended family. The film's cast is almost entirely non-profes­sional. Kawase and her crew shot the film in the village of Nishiyoshino after a long period of research and local residence, which enabled them to develop an intimacy with the people of the area. The villagers are affectionately acknowledged in the film, not just in the credits but also in front of the camera, making brief appearances in documentary interludes which punctuate the fictional family narrative.

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