Japanese Film Festival, Kuala Lumpur, Day 1

Ending Note: Death of a Japanese Salesman

Death of a Japanese Salesman

Sunada Mami

2011

A man diagnosed with stage 4 cancer tries to settle his accounts and spend as much time with his family as possible before the end, all through the watchful gaze of his daughter’s video camera.

From the title, there will be no surprise at what happens at the end of this film.

The documentary, made for probably as much as it cost to buy the camera and some film, is incredibly poignant.  I cried like a little girl lost in the woods through large portions of it. I can’t remember the last time a film made me cry this much. The salesman in question, Sunada Tomoaki is a typical Japanese businessman but as we see through the film, his typicality is a value to envy. He has had ups and downs like the rest but when we see him, right after the diagnosis and right to the end, we see a life filled with humour, love, happiness and an unshaking lust for life. What got me the most was his dry and sharp sense of humour which never left him and his deep love for his grandchildren. I defy anyone not to break down when he sees them for the last time. As I said before, it is a very cheaply made film, using a standard home video camera, but cost seems immaterial after seeing a film about a man who cared for the most important things in life. RIP Mr. Sunada.

Rebirth

Narushima Izuru

2011

Kiwako, who has fallen in love with a married man, impulsively abducts his infant daughter. Through the first four years of the child’s life she is cared for by Kiwako. After the woman is arrested and the child taken back to her parents, she finds it hard to believe that these strangers are her own parents.

Rebirth is an abduction film unlike others as it almost solely focuses on the abductor and not the family. Is this woman a monster? Is she crazy? Possibly. Although no one can deny that she is a wonderful mother to the child with whom she gives nothing but love. She cares for her so much and protects her so well that, even though you know the full story, that this woman has destroyed at least three lives by her actions, at least half of you wants her to get away with it.The film is a meditation on love and loss. It follows the abductor as she cares for the child through her infant years and what her actions do to all those concerned years after.  The one true victim is the little girl, who in her adult years finds herself making the same mistakes as the women before her. The film is too long and the ending was a disappointment but the acting was very good and it uses the base of an abduction story to make something new. Kudos.

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