Teacher Mina, when they built that housing project, did they think, if all the windows were the same size and faced south at the same angle, that they'd all get the same sunlight and everyone would be equally happy?
What are you talking about? That's for drying laundry.
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Toshiaki Toyoda's latest is a definite departure from his previous films about young Japanese men on the fringes of society suffering from alienation and ennui. This time he adapts a novel about a Japanese family whose motto is "keep no secrets from each other, be ashamed of nothing". The main character is the mother, played by excellent actress Kyôko Koizumi, with father, daughter, son and grandmother making up the rest of the unit.
Toyoda explained that the "Hanging Garden" is both a reference to Babylon and the "rootlessness" of Japanese society (plants in a hanging garden cannot extend their roots into the soil). The film features some very unusual and mesmerising camera work, such as having the camera swing as if in a hanging basket.
The film is complex and rich, defying easy description or summary. Suffice to say that the families adherence to their creed turns out to be less than absolute.
HANGING GARDEN is Toyoda's most successful movie in Japan (by quite a long way, I would imagine), capturing a female audience his earlier films could never have hoped to reach, as well as appealing to older generations of cinema-goers. Toyoda's intelligence, his deep understanding of characters and actors and his confidence in forging his own cinematic language are all brought to a new level with this film, though it loses some "coolness" as a trade-off. The film does have the same kind of subtle development as 9 SOULS, where scenes and events build layer upon layer like the composition of a painter, but for me the end result didn't reach quite the same level of awe-inspiration. Perhaps because my expectations were higher this time around, perhaps because I can relate less to the central character than any of the 9 protagonists of his last film.
Still, Toyoda has again proved himself to be a smarter and more individual film-maker than the vast majority of his peers.
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