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Reviews & Ratings for
Railroad Man More at IMDbPro »Poppoya (original title)

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21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Cry your heart out...

Author: Kahuna-6 ( from Singapore
2 November 1999

Must had cried for a thousand miles. Watching a movie on a 6" screen trapped in a coach seat at 30,000 ft high is usually a diversion not a pleasurable entertainment. But strangely enough, this simple 3 hankie movie is both engaging and moving.

A railway man works at the end of a desolated railway line, at the end of his career, at the end of his life. Nothing much happens. He does his job at the one man station faithfully. He greets the old familiar commuters with the station name, shovels snow off the platform, sends the train off with a ritualistic check list. He did this almost all his life with the same mechanical precision. He had a family once. His daughter died at a very young age and more recently his wife died.

The lonely widower had a few visitors on New Year Eve. And the news were not feastive. The little town, with the younger population migrating to bigger places, would probably die of old age. The rail line, facing declining traffic and increasing loss, will be closed. And he would have to vacate the station which was also his home for most of his life.

The director, Yasuo Furuhata, handles the story with sensitivity and humility. The occasional high camera or wide angle shots only accentuates the isolation. Cutting is excellent. Scenes are allowed to sustain poignancy without allowing distraction. Quick cuts are used to enforce the ritual routine with precision. The bare story line & minimal dialogue was not a handicap. The use of flashbacks in fact creates beautiful characterisation without unnecessary ornamentation. The old method of using colour tone to delineate time events was very effective here. In one particular scene shot from a static camera position flowed with a continuous action shifted over time just by the use of colour. Seamless, masterly.

How did veteran lead Ken Takakura win so much empathy for his part is really a mystery. No strut, quiet body and very little facial expression. Yet he involves us in the internal conflicts of the character. When he said "no regrets" over the choices he had made in his career, the price he had to pay and the sadness he felt is palpable.

Don't believe a word I say. Just go watch the movie.

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Work of Japanese Art

Author: Jey-and-Mina from Seattle
28 December 2002

We made the mistake of not having any tissues next to us while watching this. This movie does a brilliant job of portraying the life of a railroad worker who is so dedicated to his job, that the greatest joys of his life pass him by and he only realizes it when it is too late.

It helps if the viewer has an appreciation of Japanese culture and the importance of dedication to one's company (especially among the older generation) to really feel the impact of this movie. If you do not view this film from that perspective, then you will have difficulty empathizing with the main character and therefore miss the beauty contained therein.

Brilliant, beautiful, and poignant. 10/10

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

So moving, it hurts...

Author: yukino_yoshi from Singapore
6 January 2000

A real touching film based on an equally moving short story. So much that it actually hurts. I just couldn't hold my tears back towards the end of the film, and I doubt those who appreciate this wonderful movie can either. Yes, it's a tear-jerker, but unlike love stories (and this isn't one) it's the poignance behind one man's stoicism -- that of a man who's not just about to be brush aside by progress, but also tormented by his guilt over the death of his wife and daughter -- that makes it heart-warming yet sad at the same time. Kudos to Yasuo Furuhata for staying faithful to Jiro Asada's story, and Ken Takakura for a stirring performance as the aging station manager.

This film will probably haunt me again the next time I take a train-ride through the snow.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Engaging, if not outright mesmerising

Author: Harry T. Yung ( from Hong Kong
13 March 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers herein)

It is so easy to swallow the myth that a film such as Poppoya would be dull, slow, with nothing happening. Slow maybe, in a way, but that depends on your definition. It's certainly not slow in the sense that there are shots that last for minutes showing someone just meditating. Nothing happening again depends on your perception. In a way, there's always something happening throughout the film. Dull? Certainly not, and there are many reasons.

The story is told in a way that is simple, but not simplistic. The main plot (for want of a better word), father-and-daughter, does not dominate the story and is only sumblimely suggested until close to the end. The main theme, the man's total dedication to his job, is indeed present throughout but is reflected off, and enhanced by many people, relationships and events around him. Flashbacks are used effectively. From these various angles and reflections, we see the many dimensions of this railroad man who seem to be rather monotonous initially.

Ironically, the key relationship of this man, with his daughter, is the most abstract. That it is so deeply moving obscures the fact that he never really knows her, as she was dead at infancy. The recreation of the three stages of her would-be life is so beautifully done, however, that the last scene becomes irresistable. A fundamental building block of this relationship is an Asian concept that has no equivalent in the West, the concept of loving, respecting, honouring, caring for, repaying (very poor choice of word but I can't think of another) and obeying (not necessarily blindly)the parents, all embodied in a single word "hau". (No cheap puns of "how?" please.)

There are many other relationships that are equally engaging: his wife, his life-long friend, people in the small town, the orphan whom he cares for. There are funny, uplifting, as well as poignant moments. Obviiously, tears flow free all around in the last scene with his daughter, or the ghost of his daughter, to be exact. However, the scene that really had me choked is another one. This is a telephone conversation he has with his buddy's son, who has become a reasonably senior executive in the head office of the railroad company. He is trying to see if there's any way to salvage the scraping of the train service to this remote, dwindling mining town but unfortunately, there's nothing the young man can do. It's the agonising helplessness of the young man and the railroad man's understanding of the other's helplessness, despite his own crashing disappointment, that really get me.

The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. The scenes of the snow-covered, dying mining town bring back memories of similar towns in Northern Ontario. The music is wonderful. I seem to remember that the tune his wife is humming along the railway track is Tennessee Waltz.

The entire cast is absolutely perfect. When I later saw Black Rain again, I realised that Ken Takakura (the railroad man) played against Michael Douglas in that one. Ryoko Hirosue(the daughter at the last stage) got considerable exposure playing opposite Jean Reno in Wasabi (2001). One of her movies that I would highly recommend is Mimitsu or Secret (1999). Without bringing in a spoiler, I would just say that her performance in a very challenging role is simply superb.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

An Outstandng Production

Author: saylesp-1 from Aomori, Japan
9 February 2007

For many people this will be an emotional movie. I was one of them. It is a story of duty taking precedence over family. Unfortunately I know the situation intimately due to conflicts between military service and family. Like the station master I chose duty at the expense of family. The story of what his daughter would have been like is told over several episodes. First as a grade schooler, then a teenager and finally as a young adult. I found myself thinking the same thing - how would my child have developed. It was profoundly moving. You also see the respect that others had for the station master. It came from young railway men and fellow towns people old alike. The concluding scenes were as moving as any of the others in the film.

For train buffs, the steam engines are excellent and even the 1 car diesels are good. In my part of Japan the diesels are quite common.

Hokkaido is a place where towns are dying and railways are disappearing as the movie alludes to. I am writing this in a hotel lobby in Sapporo, Hokkaido, in weather similar to the movie. It has an added touch of reality.

I recommend this film to all who have an interest in Japan and life in the far north.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A nice change from American blockbusters

Author: Neil from Nara, Japan
29 November 2003

A particularly Japanese take on duty and responsibility, Ken Takakura is a trainman at a rural train station. Sad, poignant, but ultimately redeeming of the choices he has had to make in order to fulfill his chosen occupation, if you are looking for action of any sort go elsewhere. This is a character drama and an excellent one. If all you know of Takekura is 'Mr. Baseball' and 'Black Rain' then you ought to see him in a role which allows him to demonstrate his strengths as an actor, delivering an amazing performance with very little overt emoting.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A touching movie about a man with faults

Author: leflashingblade from United Kingdom
15 March 2005

I just watched this tonight and had to get it from Hong Kong, via Ebay. I don't agree with the last reviewer, though I recognise the comments about values of the past. That is kind of the point. The movie establishes Sato, the railroader, as a sympathetic character. He's not as cold as his exterior: he does grieve for his wife and his daughter, he does show affection and care for the girls and for his colleague etc. He is criticised and there is a constant theme about how he feels he cannot change. The fact that he should have done this or that differently makes us think about what he should or should not have done.

I found the film touching and thought that it was shot well and had a pretty decent plot. The revelation of the plot at the end was a bit of clumsy exposition, but the movie has heart and I am willing to forgive it.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, moving

Author: shkunz from Los Angeles
29 July 2001

What more can I say about this movie the other reviewers have already said better. I just watched this movie on TV as a special presentation on one of the local foreign language TV stations here in Los Angeles. If you ever get a chance to see this movie, see it.

It has wonderful understated acting, direct but subtle writing, and beautiful cinematography. This is the perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Surprise movie on ANA

Author: tadecfoley from United Kingdom
8 April 2009

I selected this movie on a recent flight to Narita from London in November 2008 because it seemed to have everything I wanted in it. Steam trains, snow, pathos and emotion as well as a reasonable story line. I work in Tokyo and have been involved in Japanese culture for many years, and have many Japanese friends, and the only difference watching THIS movie was that I was crying by myself, rather than in good company.

The winter scenery was, as ever in Hokkaido, simply sublime and the characters carefully drawn and wholly believable. The plot was, for me, simple, but then I am a simple man, and even though I saw it all coming, the ending was a satisfactory confirmation rather than any great surprise.

To say that it made an impression on me does not do this movie justice - it was a confirmation in my mind of most of the things I love about Japan and its people.

You will not find violence, or, indeed, much in the way of loud voices, and the musical score is not only pretty quiet, but wholly suited to the plot-line. The key to enjoying this movie relies on your knowledge of how the Japanese people see themselves.

Even were I never to see it again, I would never forget it, and probably, neither would you.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Great Acting by Ken Takakura

Author: (mflam) from Hong Kong
1 January 2000

A moving japanese movie of 1999. This time Ken Takakura is not a member of the Yakuza but a railroad station officer. He is now 68, but looks even better than his young time. The most moving part is the telephone conversation between him and his friend's son regarding the closing the station. I am not sure whether this film will be available in the state but it is a must-see film for 1999.

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