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Banshun / Late Spring Review

The longest poems stretch for pages while the shortest are a few lines, or even syllables.  Yet regardless of the length or verbosity, the effect of a poem and the amount of work which went into making it can be the same.  If we were comparing films to poems, I believe that “Banshun” would be one of the shorter ones, seemingly simplistic and undetailed at first but powerful when reflected upon.  There are no excessive details or overdirection – scenes are kept simple and the story itself isn’t filled with dramatic plot revelations and twists.  Rather, it is filmmaking in it’s purest form – a communication of an story between the director and his audience.’

That story is, as I said, a fundamentally simple one.  A daughter lives with her elderly father, but she has reached the age when most of her generation has married and both she and her father begin to realize that she will eventually have to leave the cozy existence they share now.  While the film focuses on Noriko, the daughter, her father is the second most prominent and well developed character.  Early on he seems to come off as a very simple character, a perpetually pleasant old man, but we can see that beneath his exterior and agreeable nature there lies a character who has his own hesitancies just as Noriko does.

Throughout the film the father appears alongside other characters – his daughter, his sister, his acquaintances, so it is only in the final scene of the film do we finally see him alone and get a glimpse at his true emotions.  After going along with his sister’s push for his daughter’s marriage, after lieing about his own remarriage so that she could be convinced to “do the right thing”, he returns for the first time to an empty house, alone.  It is a quiet, introspective, simple, and one of the saddest movie scenes I have ever watched.

Of course, credit must be given to the actors who give fabulous performances in the major roles.  Unlike many of the sentimental films which we are fed these days, this film does not force any kind of sadness on the audience with the use of melodramatic acting or overbearing effects.  The music is soft and simple, but bittersweet.  Scenes of silence are allowed to exist for long periods of time.  In one scene in particular, Noriko comes to a realization about her father during a Noh theatre performance.  There is no discussion, but the direction and acting does a fine job of communicating what is going through Noriko’s mind.

A point of interest about the film is that although the film is about a possible marriage between Noriko and a suitor, we never see the suitor.  We do not see the wedding ceremony, nor do we get any glimpse of their new married life.  The director has chosen a subject, which is the pressuring of Noriko to leave her father and get married, and he doesn’t distract from this tale with love stories or the like.  The film is about a father and daughter who would ideally be left alone to live a  happy existence, but instead both make their own sacrifices for the sake of adapting to what is”normal”.

A definite reccomendation from me. 

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