Life isn't easy for a group of high school kids growing up absurd in Japan's pervasive pop/cyber culture. As they negotiate teen badlands- school bullies, parents from another planet, lurid... 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.
Leaving her alcoholic husband, Eiko takes their son Masaya away from Tokyo and back to her hometown in a Kyushu rural mining community. She toils to support him though many years of ... See full summary »
In 1965 the planned closing of a coal mine in Iwaki (northeastern Japan) will put 2,000 people out of work with devastating effects on the community. The mining company plans to build the Hawaiian Center to promote tourism, but the idea meets with resistance by the community's union families who boycott the effort. However, a few of the young women in Joban see the call for dancers to possibly provide a more promising future. Norio Yoshimoto is put in charge of organizing the center, with Madoka Hirayama, a professional dancer fleeing creditors in Tokyo hired to train the dancers. Kimiko, her friend Sanae, and Sayuri are amongst the handful first showing up for lessons but soon others join them. When Kimiko's mother, Chiyo, discovers that she has skipped school classes to learn dancing the two argue and Kimiko leaves home. Her brother Yojiro, one of the newly out of work miners, comes to be supportive of her dancing as he becomes protective of Madoka. The girls start to tour ... Written by
Wonderful music, wonderful Japanese comedy is great family entertainment
Make no mistake about it, this is a Japanese comedy, with few ties to Hawaii. But that doesn't take away from the fact the film is wonderfully scored, believably acted, and a fun, entertaining movie. Screened for the first time in the U.S. in October 2006 as the finale gala extravaganza at the Hawaii International Film Festival (#1 Asian festival & one of world's 10 best overall now), many hula teachers and Hawaii fans may have feared this movie might take a less- than-serious-enough view of the sacred Hawaiian dance. But, upon viewing this light-hearted comedy, critics had to sit back and appreciate just how loyal the film remained to the Japanese interpretation of hula. Japanese view hula as a dance, and Hawaii as a warm tropical paradise in much the same way American filmmakers viewed Hawaii in the 1950s. Viewers, even kumu hula and critics, shouldn't forget that this is a film about that Japanese interpretation - at that time, and not impose upon it the serious more cultural aspects a current movement in Hawaii is bringing back to the dance. In fact, the director of "Hula Garu" successfully gets away with this by making the film a comedy, and never trying to delve into the historical, religious, or other cultural dimensions of hula. While not true to today's view of hula in Hawaii, this film is not about today, or Hawaii. It's about an obscure little town in northern Japan that created a Hawaiian village concept, complete with its own hula troupe to attract tourists and save the town from extinction. Several heart warming moments in this 'To Sir With Love,' teacher-conquers- impossible-odds themed story bring tears to the spectators' eyes. And the music could hardly have been more perfect to help accentuate those emotional moments. Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro's score is perfect, and likely to win awards, and possibly even help make Jake a household name on the U.S. mainland, as it already has become in many circles in Japan. The film's screenplay successfully draws the audience into the characters in a way that forces even the most critical hula fans to forgive the film's small imperfections. The only strong disappointment I had about the film was how it confused hula and Tahitian dancing. On the other hand, that's a common misconception that all Hawaii visitors make, since hula troups almost always perform both types of dances in public. So, in a sense, the film is true to the way Japanese and tourists perceive hula, if not to hula itself. This film is not a film about Hawaii or hula dancing; but a comedy about how Japanese have adopted this wonderful dance in its own way, while respecting the Hawaiian culture in doing so. Keeping that in mind, viewers will have little to critique and everything to enjoy about this film, the acting, and the wonderful music. Overall, this is a fun, enjoyable family movie which deserves to be seen on the big screen. Don't wait to rent the video. See it in a theater and feel the energy, the music, and the strange story that began Japan's growing love for Hawaii's greatest export.
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