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Departures: A Must See Movie

10 Mar 2010

Last night my wife and I watched the movie ‘Departures’ directed by Yojiro Takita.  It was fantastic, one of the best films I have seen in a long time. It is a touching story about a young man and his journey in life.  He realizes his preferred path of being a cellist in an orchestra is not meant to be ~ the orchestra disbanded and he realizes his talent is not good enough to keep going.  He stumbles into a new career as a nakanshi that he hides from his wife because it is considered dirty and is shunned by others.  The story unfolds beautifully, the acting and the music is superb.

There are a lot of great reviews for this film, instead of writing another I chose this one by Wayward Muse on Netflix.

Departures is one of those rare films that just about everyone who views it will love. It is nearly perfect. The worst I’ve heard anyone say is they felt a little emotionally manipulated, but still loved it! Which begs the question: what is manipulative in film? I would argue that while I find many Japanese dramas very emotionally manipulative even if I like them—filled with overly-sentimental music—dragging out emotional scenes way beyond the limits of good taste—I would not put Departures in this category by a very long shot! Yes, it will move anyone who is not encrusted in stone—but it does this not through classic manipulative film-making, but through slow quiet scenes of watching people’s reactions to seeing their recently departed loved ones treated with absolute reverence and grace. To me it speaks to a hunger inside of us all to give and receive such gentle, tender, and respectful treatment. It also reveals what is necessary to grieve well. But another strength of the film is that it is downright hilarious at times, capturing the gallows humor and absurdity of death. And it is a very personal, even spiritual story of Daigo’s discovery of an avocation in life. He begins the story as a cellist who loses his job when his orchestra goes under. Realizing the limits of his talents, he returns with his wife to his childhood home, where he stumbles into an accidental apprenticeship as a nakanshi—not an undertaker or a mortician, nakanshi is a rather recent vocation in Japan, and many funerary services do not include this traditional piece at all. Performing a task, which up until recently would have been done by a family member, the nakanshi ceremonially bathes and dresses the dead—with the family looking on. This job is considered “unclean” and carries a heavy stigma, and this fact is central to some of the drama—probably the most “predictable” part, but so moving as to be easily forgiven. If ever a film deserved it’s Oscar, this is it! 07-06-09 ~ Wayward Muse

So if your not “encrusted in stone” check this movie out, I hope you like it as much as I did.  I do not plan on rating/reviewing movies on this blog, but I just could not resist giving some props to this one.

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  1. I will definately check it out.

  2. Wow, this was definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long long time. I’m no Siskel and Ebert, but I know what I like and I know what touches me and this did. Not only was the scenery breathtaking in some scenes, but the Japanese culture was stunning as well. The “art” of nakshani was very interesting to say the least. It is so fluid and perfect in every way. Makes me want to be shipped to Japan when I pass on. The cast was flawless too. Just sheer perfection in every regard. More please!

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