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Review: Departures

Deliberate, detailed, and delicate
By PETER KEOUGH  |  June 16, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars


VIDEO: The trailer for Departures

Yôjirô Takita's film won the Best Foreign Language Oscar this year, and for good reason. It has the look, the feel, and the subtitles of a foreign movie; yet it offers the comforting familiarity of American-style sentimentality and closure. And topical themes.

Cellist Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) loses his job when his symphony orchestra is disbanded, so he agrees to work as an assistant to sad Mr. Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), an undertaker. The rituals may be moving and elegant, but those who perform them are ostracized, so Daigo keeps the job a secret from his wife. More tension arises from his resentment of the father who abandoned him as a child and whose role Mr. Sasaki fills.

Takita unfolds his tale with the deliberation, detail, and delicacy of the burial ceremony itself, deftly intermixing sublimity and broad humor (sometimes in the same scene, as when they prepare the corpse of a beautiful woman). Only at the end does he resort to Hollywood corn for those who like their conclusions neat.

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