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"Departures": Death, life and cellos

Posted at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2009 by Euan Kerr

(Masahiro Motoki as Daigo Kobayashi in "Departures" Image courtesy Regency Releasing)

It's been said the only constant in life is change. Then there are those who quip about death and taxes. Director Yôjirô Takita explores two of these three in "Departures," which won the Oscar for best Foreign Language Film this year.

The film follows the misfortunes of Daigo, a young man who has dedicated his life to becoming a cellist. He suddenly finds himself unemployed, and possibly unemployable, when the only orchestra which would hire him unexpectedly folds.

He leave Tokyo and takes his wife to the small town where he grew up. Desperate for a job he answers a mysterious newspaper ad, and to his surprise and horror finds he has signed on with a 'casketing' company which prepares bodies for burial.

It's a job which is treated with disgust in Japan and Daigo struggles with his new duties, even hiding what he does from his wife, who believes he's some kind of tour guide.

The film is beautifully observed as he comes to terms with the necessity of what he does, learning from his boss Sasaki, played with deadpan elegance by veteran actor Tsutomu Yamazaki ("Kagemusha," "Tampopo.")

"Departures" is well worth the trip.

June 2009
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