Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"CASINO ROYALE"

Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelson, Dame Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini

Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex


Shaken not Stirred



I grew up watching Roger Moore prance his way around the world as James Bond with his fancy cars, his hi tech gadgets, bedding women left and right, drinking his 'shaken not stirred' Martinis, fighting evil villains without getting his hair disheleved and getting himself into silly situations which border on the funny to the down right ridiculous. Then came Pierce Brosnan with his dashing debonair looks with the same premise so I lost interest in the whole Bond franchise. Because let's face it, in this day and age of modern technology, his gadgets seemed pretty lame, his promiscuous behavior is recklessly dangerous in this AIDS afflicted world and after the Cold War ended, James Bond was pretty much left without believable villains to chase across the world. Besides for me, Pierce Brosnan will always be Remington Steele not James Bond.

But "Casino Royale" managed to pique my interest back into the dark world of espionage. It is a reboot or sort of like a prequel into the life of the secret agent, James Bond. He just got promoted to his 007 status after getting his 2 kills. He is still raw, unrefined and quite thug like in his demeanor. Not consciously aware of the protocol involved in international relations, he lets his emotions cloud his judgment, he is recklessly imprudent, not quite observant nor mentally alert. Yet in the same breath, this makes him only human so he is more fascinating to watch as he grapples with his inner conflicts. He is also willing to get his hands dirtied, adding scars to his already craggy appearance, and boy can he run real fast. Did you see how fast he can run? Swooshing away like a speeding bullet. But no he isn't Superman, he is merely human.

So while I did enjoy the more in depth glimpse into the personality of the secret agent, I thought that the movie was too long to sustain much interest in the complex storyline. The way the plot just folded up pretty quickly towards the end is a bit awkward. It is almost like the director realized they had gone over the standard 90 minutes so they had to kill off the unsavory characters, one by one. What's up with the music during certain action filled scenes? It was too freaking loud at times that I had to literally cover my ears so I won't get deaf.

But the locales were top notch. Very panoramic! From the hot, humid poverty stricken atmosphere of Madagascar in Africa to Montenegro in Eastern Europe with its colorful houses and tiny cobblestone streets nestled within the mountains. The San Marco Square in Venice with its pigeons, teeming with tourists and locals and the gondolas weaving in and out of the canals. The sandy beaches of the Bahamas with its palm trees swaying in the wind to the breathtakingly calming ambiance of Lake Como in Italy -they were such a fantastic cinematic visual feast.

The graphic digitally mastered opening titles with the playing cards with Chris Cornell signing "You Know my Name" was a neat trick because the main game they played in the Casino was poker.

An international cast of actors gave credible performances. The main protagonist, Le Chiffre is eerie and cunning complete with a bleeding eye. Mads Mikkelsen's portrayal was subdued, not overacting to turn his villain character into a caricature. French Eva Green cleaned up pretty well for her role here as the alluring Vesper Lynd as opposed to her decrepit appearance in "Kingdom of Heaven". Dame Judi Dench is still a formidable presence on screen, her portrayal of M is authoritative yet warm and nurturing too. Of course, kudos goes to Daniel Craig. In his biggest role to date in his rather lackluster career, his James Bond is endearingly flawed with a nice mix of raw energy coupled with an emotionally charged persona that can pierce through the screen.

So make no doubt about it, James Bond is back with a vengeance and dare I say ... It is about time too!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"YAWARAKAI SEIKATSU"
("IT'S ONLY TALK")

CineManila
World Cinema Category
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 1
November 3 - 16, 2006

Yuko



A sad thought provoking Japanese film that tackles depression, loneliness and a longing to establish a connection with other people. Ryuichi Hiroki's latest offering tells the story of Yuko, a 35 year old single woman who is jobless, lives alone and is battling manic depressive disorder. Her world revolves around 4 people who in some strange ways occasionally connect with her on different aspects. K, a sex pervert she met online with whom she has an illicit affair. She has a platonic affair with Noburu, a depressed 24 year old member of the Yakuza member. He connected to her through her blog where she posted pictures of some interesting facets of the Kamata area in Tokyo where she resides. Honma, her classmate in college who has erectile dysfunction. Her 'sometimes boyfriend' who has issues with intimacy. Lastly, Stoichi her male cousin with marital problems who one day shows up at her apartment. He eventually becomes her nurturing caregiver yet he also has some misgivings about his role as a husband and a distant father to his young daughter.
All of them at some point and in some form or the other present in her life yet once things 'pick' up in their respective lives, they soon 'abandon' poor Yuko. I wouldn't really say that they used her but I guess it was mutually beneficial. She needed them as much as they needed her to be part of their lives however briefly it might have been.

We learned that Yuko is an orphan who lives off the insurance she inherited when her parents died tragically in a fire. Looking at her, you don't really get the impression that she is suffering from a mental condition. She looks normal, she is very lucid yet she is heavily medicated. But she does have a tendency to embellish the truth with some little white lies. For instance, telling people that her parents were killed in the Hashin earthquake when the truth is they died in a fire. She does it to add more drama to her already tragic life. She justifies it by saying that "people would sympathize more if they learn they perished in an earthquake than just a fire that raze our house to the ground". I guess she has a twisted sense of view but I believe she just openly says things more to get some sympathy than to shock them with a sense of guilt. Yuko spends her days roaming the city taking pictures of anything that catches her fancy then posts them on her blog as well as an online forum for manic depressive people.

The director Ryuichi Hiroki was present during the screening of the film. Afterwards he commented in the Q & A portion that he wanted to show that even in a vibrant society like Japan, people get depressed and experience bouts of loneliness and extreme sadness. He also kept alluding to his previous film "The Vibrator" because he hired the same actress to star in both movies. Given that I never saw aforementioned film, I cannot make a valid comparison. But I have to say that the lead actress Shinobu Terashima gave such a moving and powerful performance as Yuko. From the way she dressed, her facial expressions to her body gestures, everything was really quite in character and it was a genuinely vivid portrayal.

It is a poignant look at a person who has no other options, no prospects yet still strives to live each day as it dawns. Lost in her little world, tucked away in her little corner of the world without much aspirations to make her life more fruitful, more challenging. A gnawing sense of acceptance settles in Yuko's life with a quietly calm demeanor that would perhaps frazzle any normal human being. Eventually, she realizes what is really important and would add more meaning to her life yet it is too late. The film ends in the same unassuming manner that it commenced. It doesn't aim to judge nor condemn Yuko's existence it just showcases her life as it is. An honest and realistic view on the life of a 30 something urbanite drifting away in a city that doesn't stop revolving, her life fraught with an eerie and depressing melancholy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS"
Ryan Philippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Barry Pepper, Neal McDonough, Paul Walker, Robert Patrick, Jamie Bell, John Slattery

"A single shot can end the War"

Cinema 5, Rockwell


I read the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, all 356 pages of it. I was totally engrossed by the detailed way it was written and absorbed every single well researched information provided in the book with gusto. I was lucky enough to find the book selling for only 30 Pesos in the National Book Store warehouse sale, last year. Therefore I was naturally curious how Clint Eastwood would interpret the story about the 6 flag raisers of Iwo Jima. Sad to say I left the theater, pretty disappointed by the film.


In the book, the author who is the son of John “Doc” Bradley (the Navy Corpsman) devoted many pages on the lives of the 6 young boys who were captured for posterity’s sake in that famous photograph. He traced their lives from their childhood growing up in dirt poor rural areas in the Midwestern part of the US during the depression era till the time they were drafted into the Marine Corps. He also went into great lengths to describe the horrific carnage that ensued on that tiny sulfur island. The brutal atrocities were very graphically documented that it made me cringe several times when I was reading the book. Then he shifts towards the part where the surviving 3 flag raisers go on a tour of the US selling war bonds while still traumatized and haunted by what they experienced on Iwo Jima. America needed them so they had to do their civic duty to help enrich the coffers of the US Treasury Department for a cause. That in some ways, they are remembering their fallen comrades by uplifting the dampened morale of the populace disillusioned by a war being fought in the Pacific.

The main theme of the film seems to be something more like heroism in the age of mass society. The film’s POV belongs to the young writer, who must piece together for himself the story of his own past. He explains that his father and friends never wanted to speak about the battle, first because it was so horrible that they wanted only to forget about it, but second because they didn’t really feel themselves to be heroes, felt unworthy of the title. “I was just a runner,” one tells a captive audience on Times Square, and “the real heroes are those who died in battle” we are told several times over. But, the war needs to be financed. Or is it the machine of war, the arms and death merchants, that really need more dollars? The film manages to be both heavy-handed and a bit sketchy on this point. It seems that Clint Eastwood wanted to make some political statement about the government using the young soldiers for propaganda’s sake by parading them shamelessly to generate more funds for the war as exemplified by this Newsweek article.

In the film, Eastwood chose to use the technique of splicing flashbacks with current scenes to narrate the story. He also used a monochromatic tone to gloss over the gory scenes. The battle of Iwo Jima is one of the bloodiest fights in the history of the US Army. But if you watch “Flags of our Fathers” the battle scenes are not that heart wrenching nor gory like the opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan”. During the entire film, my sister had to ask me who was who, what was his ranking and where was he located during the actual raising of the flag. So before you had a sense of the 6 main characters, the director killed them off in a staged out of context manner. I know that everything happened so fast after the flag was raised. The entire Suribachi mountain exploded with gunfire artillery. Total mayhem and a bloody carnage followed.

“You can’t see their faces” the bitter mother of a fallen soldier remarks as she looks at the famous photograph. This could just as easily be said of the Japanese soldiers, who appear only for brief instants and more as silhouettes than anything else. There were 22,000 Japanese on Iwo Jima, and fewer than 1500 survivors (though we never see them). Indeed, we never get much sense of the Japanese as human beings in this film, and when this point is mixed with heavy CGFX, no matter how impressive and seamless the technology has become, it just slips into moments of feeling like a sophisticated video game. To be honest, it’s as if Eastwood *didn’t* want to make a war film, after all.

For the main conflict in the film isn't really with the Japanese (they never appear), but rather between the young soldiers and the American government. Their naivete is made quite clear early on, the realization that their buddy overboard will be left to perish at sea, the various conflicts they witness between the military commanders and the battle planners, etc., so we are well-prepared for the whole problem of the flag (two photos, not one, because some military brass wanted a souvenir, a trophy for his shooting lodge), the “buy bonds” road tour, their disillusionment as they try to act the part of the heroes, and all the questions they ask that are never answered.

The ensemble cast were ok but special mention goes to Adam Beach as the deeply troubled Pima Indian, Ira Hayes. He captured the angst ridden Hayes with such painful poignancy. I believe that Ryan Philippe as John Bradley came across as being too meek. From the book, the impression I got of Doc Bradley was a strapping lanky lad who was strong enough to carry wounded soldiers on his back. He was a very nurturing fellow who gained the respect of his comrades for saving a lot of lives on that ill fated island.

The film wasn't “bad enough” that we could take issue with its failings, but it didn’t really succeed in ways that could be praised, either. To be fair, I feel that I must wait and see “Letters from Iwo Jima”, the second film which presents the perspective from the Japanese side. It is now getting good reviews from the critics and has also been included among the top 10 films for 2006 in Time Magazine.

In conclusion, I believe that you are better off reading the book to understand the full extent of the damage that happened not only on that tiny sulfur island but also definitely in the deep recesses of the mind of the surviving soldiers. Their horrific experience haunted them till their last breath, unfortunately this film didn’t do justice to their gutting experience on the sands of Iwo Jima.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY"

CineManila
World Cinema Category
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 1
November 3 -15, 2006

Irish Republican Army


A poignant tale of two brothers who find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide in Ireland after the signing of the peace treaty which divided Ireland into two. This eventually led to the outbreak of civil war in Ireland between the group which supports the Treaty and those who believed in fighting for their Independence. This film directed by Ken Loach won the Palme D'or prix at this year's Cannes Film Festival in France. It is set in a small rural Irish town in the early 20th century. The film explores the lives of the people who are constantly harassed by British soldiers. How they band together to rebel against the authoritarian rule is the main thrust of this film.

Ken Loach's minimalist approach about a very sensitive subject is a good depiction. It is very dialogue driven so you need to tune your mind to understand the Irish accent. I got used to reading subtitles after watching a lot of foreign films recently so for a certain part of the film I had to really strain my ears to grasp the language. There are some really graphically brutal scenes but they are clearly relevant to the storyline. The sometimes lush, then other times barren Irish countryside provide excellent backdrop coating the film with a certain bleakness that makes it very realistic.

The ensemble cast all contribute to etch out some distinctly humane characters. Special mention goes out to Cillian Murphy whose underacting approach adds a lot of heart and soul to his character as one of the ill fated Donovan brothers. He basically carries the whole movie without being too 'in your face' if you know what I mean. The storyline is fluid enough and not really hard to comprehend you just need to really listen because it is in the dialogue that things get explained.

I have to admit everything I know about the political situation in Ireland during that historical period, I 'learned' by watching movies like "Michael Collins", "The Boxer" and "In the Name of the Father" which of course doesn't really give a more profound sense of the conflict. But I am more or less aware of the whole situation. So it doesn't hurt one bit to learn more about the political climate in that part of the world through one more socially relevant film about contemporary history.
"9-YA ROTA"
"9TH COMPANY"

CineManila
World Cinema Category
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 1
November 3 - 16, 2006

This Russian film explores a band of young Army recruits who are set to fight in the Afghan war during the Soviet invasion of the country in the 1980s. The film is based on events which took place in early 1988 during the last large-scale Soviet military operation "Magistral". This particular army company is said to have been "forgotten" by the military command because of the Soviet withdrawal. A bloody battle which cost them dearly with many casualties.

The film starts with the usual introduction of the various characters, during their rigid training in the rough terrain of Uzbekistan up to their fierce battle on top of the mountains in barren Afghanistan against a forcefully menacing and well hidden enemy, the Mujahideens. It is a realistically convincing movie about a war that not many people have had access to, fought in the 80s when the Soviet Union was still a force to be reckoned with. The brutal often crude training of the army recruits was very harsh and almost inhuman yet the camaraderie that forms between the young guys is sealed by a strong bond. Character development is well established although I have to admit it is a bit daunting to remember names and faces since it seems to me that they all look alike. A fact I have often noticed when I watch foreign films. Maybe it is because the language is completely alien and I have to read subtitles to get a feel of how each character is fleshed out.

Anyways, the film picks up once they get to Afghanistan. The very minute they step off the plane, an intense explosive scene sets the ball rolling. A jaw dropping shot of the arid terrain of Afghanistan provides great visual of the locale. The tiny village, the treacherous mountains with hidden caves that weave like a snake and the Russian army's barracks are all well portrayed. But sometimes some random scene enters the frame out of nowhere that catches you by surprise like the shot where their training commander is crying while he sits in a field of bright red flowers. Loud blaring music pierces your ear drums for some dramatic effect just when you least expect it. The film deals with a sensitive theme - war. So naturally, gory scenes of bullets flying everywhere and bodies ripped apart and falling down like dominoes abound. The battle scenes are well executed but they tend to have this Rambo like effect and can take the tone of a grade B (American) movie. The enemy are mostly caricatures of some men wearing turbans and flowing capes who pop in and out of some hidden caves to kill the Russians. We are not given a good sense of what exactly the Mujahideens are fighting for and it seems neither did the Soviet army have a good insight on their enemy. All they are told is to be vigilant and fully alert. The final battle scene is a bit ridiculous but I guess the director wanted to show the desperation of the 9th company when they were being overwhelmed from all corners by the Mujahideens. Their appeal for help and reinforcement fell on deaf ears as the Soviet Union had already withdrew from Afghanistan.

This film is said to receive mixed reactions from the veterans of that war, who pointed to a number of inaccuracies. It was directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk, the son of classic Soviet film director Sergei Bondarchuk, whose 1959 Destiny of a Man was a landmark in film treatments of World War II and who also shot an Oscar-winning epic, based on Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace. In 2006, Russia nominated the movie for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"EVERYBODY'S FAMOUS!"

Cine Europa
Shang Cineplex
November 9 - 19, 2006

Lucky Manuelo




This is a light hearted comedy from Belgium, the land of the Manneken Pis, (Belgian) waffles and where I grew up for a considerable period in my youth (in Brussels, its capital).

This movie though is set in a Flemish town and its tag line poses the question "How far are you willing to go to become a star?" Apparently for Jean, a factory worker, he is willing to do a lot for his teenage daughter, Marva. His method was accidentally drastic but it was never ill intentioned in the first place, he simply wanted his plump daughter to become a pop star. Marva is a regular at karaoke contests impersonating singers like Vanessa Paradis (Johnny Depp's French singer/actress wife) and Madonna. She is downright ridiculous complete with ill fitting costumes so she never bags the grand prize. She has a lovely singing voice though but simply lacks the confidence and charisma befitting a pop star given that she is eh rotund. Her (stage) father on the other hand keeps pushing her to develop her gifted talent to the fore, much to Marva's chagrin.

This is a funny little movie about a father's deep affection for his talented daughter. There are chuckles moments as well as some really hilarious scenes on people who join these contests dressed up in full regalia singing their hearts out. But this film isn't just about singing contests, there are endearingly well developed characters and it has a concise plot. A few "Eurovision" like songs also provide background music to this Flemish film. I will guarantee you will be humming the catchy song "Lucky Manuelo" as you exit the theater. An emotional somehow corny sequence to tug at your heartstring caps the whole film. But overall it is about overcoming your fears, about being triumphant despite all the odds and about believing in yourself or in this case a father believing with all his heart that his daughter is a star in every sense of the word.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

"STARFISH HOTEL"

CineManila
World Cinema Category
Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2
November 3 - 15

Starfish Hotel


This is an obscure Japanese film about a man whose life seems to tread on a thin line between reality and fantasy. Arisu is a 'pen pusher' meaning an ordinary salaried employee who likes to read mystery novels by Jo Kuroda, an author with a flair for gripping thrillers with characters like Mr Trickster (a guy dressed in a rabbit suit) and a dream like place called "Darkland". One day, Arisu's neglected wife just disappears without a trace. To complicate things, Mr Trickster follows Arisu around and provides him obscure details about his wife. Arisu is also still haunted by an affair he had with a mysterious woman he met in a place called "Starfish Hotel", two years ago. And get this - "Starfish Hotel" just happens to be the title of the latest Jo Kuroda mystery novel getting a lot of publicity all over town.

Are the troubles that Arisu suddenly finds himself drawn into related to his past affair? What really happened to his wife? Why does Mr. Trickster, the rabbit man know so much about his life? Are his sightings of Jo Kuroda real or are their part of his nightmares? Suddenly the viewer is confronted with a lot of questions that seem to offer no clear answers. If ever would you trust someone dressed in a rabbit suit for the solution to your agony?

This film is clearly bizarre yet in some ways it is also quite compelling to watch. Things are clearly not as they seem. You need to really wrap your mind around the facts as they are presented to you. The director, John Williams who happens to be British by the way chose to mix flashback scenes with current events as they unfold. The sequences are coherent and play out effortlessly. You simply cannot help but be sucked into a strange world of somber surroundings thriving with mysterious characters. There are certain issues which are never explained. The who, why, when and what are left dangling. You simply form your own opinion of what really happened. It is like playing a treacherous mind game. I guess the real question is are you willing to play these games or are you simply not in the mood to keep analyzing this film and just accept it for what it is.

I admit the movie still played out in my mind several hours after I had viewed it in an almost empty dark theater. Until now almost a day after, I'm still trying to find a deeper meaning, a hidden message instilled somewhere, making a conscious effort to comprehend what it wants to convey. My only firm conclusion is that with a movie like "Starfish Hotel" you cannot come up with just one clear answer. It will just linger in the deep recesses of your mind and fester like an uninvited guest to a dinner party.

Perhaps this review of the movie which I found over the Internet will help you ease your mind. It certainly appeased my mind but I still have various questions which are well maybe best left unanswered. All I can further add is that this is the first Japanese film I've viewed which deals with flawed human relationships in a modern setting. Most of the Japanese movies I've watched so far dealt mostly with Samurais with their strict adherence to the Bushido code. An era long buried in the past rich history of Japan. So "Starfish Hotel" was rather compelling to watch and I've grown to appreciate its unique essence despite its surrealist undertones.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

"MARIE ANTOINETTE"
Kirsten Dunst, Rip Torn, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rose Byrne, Steven Coogan

"Let them eat cake"

Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3

Let them eat cake!



I am still at odds on whether I like this film or not. That's why I've been having a difficult time coming up with a review.

On the one hand, it is a visually pleasing movie to watch. Quite bright and it has this little airy feel to it with all those 80s music, those colorful costumes and great shots of Versailles in all its gaudy glamour. It was very detail oriented from the way the meals were presented on the table, a feast fit for royalty to the ornately furnished rooms of the palace as well as the manicured lush lawns of the gardens of Versailles. I have been to Versailles several times in my lifetime, I have always wondered how it would feel to live during that auspiciously opulent era. All those balls and merry making, endless revelry with beautiful gowns in those halls with grand paintings, high chandeliers and classical music permeating throughout the Palace. Ok I will stop daydreaming now ... back to the film. I also like the 'fashion show' style of displaying the young Queen's wardrobe - her numerous dainty shoes, her brocade gowns and her elaborate coiffure (hairstyle) - complete with rock music to appeal to the younger audience.

But then the thing is for me, it seemed like Sofia Coppola read Lady Antonia Fraser's book then decided to go on a field trip. Telling herself 'well since I'm going to be in France after all, why don't I grab my video camcorder, round up some of my friends who just happen to be actors/actresses, dress them up in period costumes, head out to Versailles and act out the book?. You stand here ... You there ... Ok action!' Voila a home made video, add a few songs here and there giving it a MTV feel then sell it to some film studio and let them market it at film festivals and selected cinema theaters.


I don't know if it is the amateurish feel or the fact that the story line is rather limited which makes me not appreciate the nature of this film. I guess in some ways, it is unique and presents us with a different side to Marie Antoinette's personality. The fact that she was a foreigner who felt like an outsider, got married to an indifferently boring husband at a very young age. Then she was under constant pressure and strain to consummate the marriage in the hopes of producing a male heir to the throne. So in her infinite boredom she indulged in lavish luxuries and couldn't care less about the starving French populace. She was very isolated in her little world of pomp and pageantry that she really didn't know any better. If anything, this film sort of justifies her opulent indulgences and certainly puts her in a much better light than someone who was conniving and callous enough to utter "Let them eat cake" as a response to the clamor of the hungry masses. So I was a bit disappointed by how confining and claustrophobic I felt watching the entire movie but then I really didn't expect much from Sofia Coppola's revisionist narrative about a much maligned and (apparently) misunderstood young Queen. Besides, I never liked Kirsten Dunst and this film just further put me off her acting all the more. Ugh!

Monday, November 6, 2006

"SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER ... AND SPRING"

CineManila
World Cinema Category
Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

4 Seasons


A very simple Korean film about the different seasons in the life of a man. It traces his existence from his childhood till his old age in a setting which is breathtakingly beautiful - a wooden temple/shrine in the middle of a wide lake surrounded by lush green mountains. There are only two main characters. A young boy and a wise old monk.
Day in and day out, life is pretty much the same in this idyllic place devoid of any distractions such as a TV or a computer for that matter. Most of the time they collect herbs in the forest for medicinal purposes and pray to Buddha.

The film starts with the first season "Spring" the boy is about 5 years old and is very curious and quite playful. The wise old man quietly observes the young kid. The season changes to "Summer" and this time he is now a teenager of about I would say 15 years old. One day a mother brings her teen daughter to the shrine in hopes of finding her a cure for her sickness. She leaves her daughter behind while she is being healed. But the young guy falls in love with her and they both decide to leave once she has recovered from her illness. "Fall" focuses on the old monk left alone to his own devices. One day the young guy returns as a grown man of 30 years old. Hardened and bitter by the conflicts and hardships which dealt him a rough life out in the real world. Most of the drama unfolds in the season as both the old monk and the grown man deal with several burdens. In the "Winter" part, he is now an older man left to take care of the shrine after the monk has crossed over to the great beyond. Then it is back to the same cycle of life once "Spring" starts and the tide has turned as the young kid in the beginning of the film is now the old monk and there is a young boy who appears under mysterious circumstances.

This film shines despite its very simplistic approach. Hardly any dialogue, no long narratives yet it is fraught with a lot of symbolisms. Subtle hints about finding one's self, about discovering the pitfalls of life and maintaining an inner sense of peaceful balance amidst various conflicts which pop up during one's lifetime. The movie is flawlessly crafted, the cinematography is crisp with very beautiful shots of all the four seasons in one single place. The characters don't say much but their body language is very expressive and their facial gestures convey a whole myriad of rich emotions. A film that evokes many thoughts yet in a very muted manner and you leave the theater with a certain sense of calm demeanor which envelopes you with some peace of mind. Until you end up stuck in a traffic jam on your way home. Oh well, back to MY reality! =)
 

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