I’ve seen both of these within the last month. One is “Departures,” a Japanese film. Here’s the DVD cover:
The other is “Get Low,” an independent movie starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek. Here’s the DVD cover:
It’s funny both pictures have a cerulean blue background. Anyway, I saw the Japanese movie at my friend Ina’s house. She had a bunch of girls over to watch an Academy Award-nominated film in the Foreign Language category. We plan to get together again and watch another movie that falls into this category.
Overall, we enjoyed this film. It’s basically about a man who loses his job as a cellist, and must find a new one. He comes across a job listing in the paper, but it doesn’t exactly state what the job is. He goes to an interview, and finds out he’d be cleaning dead bodies and conducting rituals to lead their spirits into the afterlife.
That doesn’t necessarily sound THAT bad, but you come to discover the job has some pretty negative aspects. Like, he gets calls in the middle of the night to retrieve dead bodies from wherever the person died. One lady had been dead for a week or so when she was discovered, so the body was all gross and decomposing when he arrived.
Another difficult aspect of the job is that society looks down on you. I think it’s because Japanese families used to take care of cleaning the body and doing the ceremonies. I think they view the man’s job as something a “stranger” shouldn’t be doing. The man’s wife certainly didn’t approve of what he was doing until she saw him perform some of the rituals. She was moved by their beauty, and her husband’s care at performing them.
The rituals also made a really positive impact on the families of the deceased. Anyway, here are some reasons I like the movie:
- The beautiful string music
- The glimpse into Japanese culture (for instance, I learned about their public baths)
- The way the man’s job gives him a greater appreciation for life
- The unusual plot
- The subtle humor
I saw “Get Low” with my mom at an independent movie theater near Syracuse, NY. It’s the story of a hermit (played by Robert Duvall) who decides to throw his own funeral party. The catch is he wants to have the party while he’s still alive. He finds a funeral home that is willing to help him out (they are mainly in it for the money).
At first, he tells everyone he wants to have the party so all the attendees can tell a story about him. The problem with that idea, however, is no one really knows him. He has lived in seclusion in the woods for over 40 years. Whenever anyone walks onto his property, he greets them with a gun and a threat. So the only stories people have are rumors or about brief unpleasant encounters.
So eventually he starts telling everyone (he and the funeral home are advertising heavily for the party) that he’s going to reveal a secret at the party. He’s going to tell everyone why he’s shunned society for so many years. This is a big draw for the townspeople, and results in a huge turnout at the party.
I’m not going to tell you what he ends up telling everyone, but it’s pretty amazing. I will say that it’s a bad thing he did during his youth. To repent for his sin, he lived in solitude for all those years. When he felt he had paid his dues, he decided to confess his transgression to everyone. It’s quite a story of redemption.
Here are a few reasons I liked this movie:
- The strong performances by Robert Duvall and Bill Murray (he heads the funeral home, and is quite funny)
- The overarching question of why the man lived in seclusion for so long
- The suggestions that he used to be happy and in love (and your desire to learn more about this)
- Some of the cheesy but moving dialogue, like a quote about how leaving things alone (like nature) makes them beautiful…I’m really frustrated I can’t find this particular quote online.
- The movie’s rural setting
- The fact the movie is based on a true story
I really liked this movie, but not quite as much as “Departures”. I think part of the reason was because for a while you don’t understand why the man would organize a party to have people tell stories about him. You don’t realize there’s another reason for the party until later on, and are kind of confused in the meantime.