A spell of time in the life of a family living in rural Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo. Though her husband is busy working at an office, Yoshiko is not an ordinary housewife, instead ... See full summary »
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Two young guys work in a plant that manufactures oshibori (those moist hand-towels found in some Japanese restaurants). Their weird bond is based on uncontrollable rage--something neither ... See full summary »
In one long Friday evening, Takeshi Miyata, a straight-arrow businessman, will encounter a number of people (some only fleetingly) who have intertwining fates. After six months he is still ... See full summary »
Majime, an eccentric man in publishing company, who has unique ability of words, joins the team that will compile a new dictionary, 'The Great Passage.' In the eclectic team, he becomes ... See full summary »
A 21-year-old girl is released from prison, only to deal with the neighborhood gossip about her and family conflicts. She decides to save one million yen, move to where no one knows her and keep repeating the process.
Tsuneo is a university student working part-time in a mah-jong parlour. Lately the customers have been talking about an old lady who pushes a baby carriage through the streets. They say she... See full summary »
A grisly murder occurs in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo - a love hotel district - a woman was found dead in a derelict apartment. Kazuko (Miki Mizuno) is a police officer called to ... See full summary »
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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