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It seems like I'm the only one that's giving this film a high rating. I
personally loved it. It even made me cry a bit.
but I have to say, this is not a movie for everybody. It's based on the book about the famous Japanese & American artist Isamu Nuguchi's life story. the title is "The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders" by Masayo Duus
its a true story (most of it) and if you know about Isamu Noguchi, I think you will appreciate this film. I mean, if you know about him, you will understand the film more.
Isamu was born in early 1900's in California. Mother Leonie Gilmore an editor. and father a Japanese poet Yone Noguchi. Yone left Leonie before Isamu was born. but after a couple years, Yone invites Leonie and Isamu to live in Japan with him. She goes, but finds out Yone has other wives(!) and leaves him and try to live by her own with young Isamu. but... as you can figure, early 1900's Japan is NOT a nice place to live if your a foreigner with a MIXED kid + NO husband. the movie is mostly about how she and Isamu struggles in their lives.
Director Hisako Matsui focused on Leonie Gilmore as a independent woman & strong mother. Time flies fast in this movie. as it shows the life of Leonie from when she goes to university till she dies...in a couple of hours.
nobody can't complain about Emily Mortimer (as Leonie) and Shido Nakamura(as Yone Noguchi).I was surprised when I heard that they casted such good actors. basically, the two actors held the movie together in one piece.
the music score by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek( also wrote scores for "Finding Neverland", and "Hachi".) was amazing and matched the scenery perfectly.
I found the entire 102-minute running length of this movie to be
extraordinary. Narrated by Emily Mortimer as Leonie Gilmour, this is a
movie that lives up to the title character's signature quote to her
life-long friend at turn-of-the-20th-century Bryn Mawr, "Don't bore me
by being ordinary!" She winds up following her own advice at the
crossroads of her life and then passing it onto her son when he needs
to choose between a conventional life in medical school or pursuing his
visions as an artist. After left in New York with child by the talented
Japanese poet whose works she edited and promoted with success, she
heads west to California to live with her mother - wonderfully essayed
by Mark Kay Place. Despite her mother's warnings, she takes her son
with her to Japan where once again, faux husband Nore wants to take
care of her but does not accord her the respect she demands. The rest
of the film is her journey to have her children educated and to grow
while moving as nomads teaching and learning what they can. It is
mesmerizing and beautifully photographed. Then the focus starts to
shift away from Leonie's tale to the independent growth of son Isamu.
The shift slow the momentum just a bit toward its rather benign conclusion until we get one final revelation as to how her daughter was born. Overall, this is a fantastic journey and a most entertaining, gratifying and well-acted tale.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film has so much going for it: beautiful cinematography, sets, costumes, wonderful actors and a strong script. I don't understand why other viewers gave it such a low rating. Emily Mortimer plays Leonie, with sensitivity and intelligence, demonstrating a complex range of emotions. The narrative is framed in the style of an older woman writing letters reflecting on her life, traveling back to her young adulthood and beyond. Leonie fits the description of a feminist and non-conformist, has a very strong education and a gift for language. She is given a position to edit the work of a Japanese poet in New York, and soon the professional relationship evolves into a romantic alliance, with some heartbreak and many disappointments along the way. Leonie travels from New York to Pasadena California with her son, fathered by the poet, and decides to go to Japan, at his invitation, to continue the relationship, and give her son an opportunity to know his father. In Japan, which is rendered in the most stunning scenes, evoking early nineteenth century design, Leonie faces things about the poet which eventually make her decide to live away from him, in a charming house designed by her ten-year-old son. Eventually, she sends him back to the United States, since she feels that it is the best place for him to be educated. Her son is a "free spirit" with the soul of an artist, and she wants to allow him to maximize his potential. The theme of artistic freedom is very strongly expressed in this film, with Leonie guiding her son into his own self-confidence, nurturing his process, helping him to turn away from a medical school in favor of what fits his nature and talent. Leonie's son, the great, visionary designer and artist Isamu Noguchi is allowed to actualize his potential largely because of his brilliant and visionary mother. Her poet lover and father of Isamu, Yone Noguchi is a great example of a man who has enormous talent for his own art of poetry, but is very limited in the art of "life," at least in the way in which he dealt with Leonie, behaving in an arrogant and narcissistic manner. As a student of art and literature, I loved this film, which was achingly beautiful in so many ways, and brought to life a bygone era with so much convincing detail. The musical sound track by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek was beautiful and worked very well with the drama on the screen. I think this wonderful film should have received many awards, and should be appreciated by all who love art and literature.
This is an EXCELLENT movie, the acting is incredible, Emily Mortimer is
wonderful to watch as are all the other actors. This is set at the turn
of the 20th Century, based on the TRUE STORY of Leonie, mother of
sculptor and artist Isamu Noguchi. This film is a beautiful depiction
of a richly varied life across borders, and how childhood shapes
The crew on this movie include many high profile names such as the Oscar winning composer Jan A. P. Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland) and Director of Photography Tetsuo Nagata from "La Vie en Rose".
The original version that was released in Japan to rave reviews and ranked high in their top 10 box office during it's opening, is like a David Lean style epic. Set in the early 1900s, the production design and locations across the USA and Japan are nostalgically wonderful and the amount of effort put the production of this film shows clearly through the amazing footage and photography. Cinematographers take note. The American cut is unfortunately a subpar edited version of this really great Japanese original; they cut 40 mins of footage out for reasons such as "impatient US audiences" and difficulty getting a longer movie into art-house theatres under limited theatrical release. Ironically, the pacing and editing of the longer version far surpass the USA cut. In fact the longer cut seems to last less time because of the way the story is told through the editing. They sadly changed from a standard chronological movie to an unnecessary flashback style edit which makes it perhaps difficult to follow.
Without further ado, I can only say if you can, watch the Japan original cut as this is how the director intended the movie to be made and with the additional 40 minutes of relevant footage, based on true events, this charming story is a beautiful film, full of life, philosophy and feeling.
This is a beautiful, haunting true story of a fascinating, independent-
minded young woman at the turn of the 20th century.
Her life ends up crossing boundaries, borders, and oceans. Though her name may be obscure, she created a legacy that lives on, and may live on for centuries.
The film is beautifully crafted, artfully presented, enormously well written and well acted. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves true stories artfully presented, and beautiful, heartwarming, uplifting films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Viewed on DVD. Score = eight (8) stars; lead acting = four (4) stars; editing = four (4) stars. Channeling BBC period dramas, Director Hisako Matsui manages to tease out a somewhat memorable film against the odds (some of which seem to be self imposed). In addition to the usual bilingual challenges that come with an English/Japanese co-production, Matsui is dealing with the miscasting of the two principal characters and impoverished editing (see below). The Director (who is credited as a co-author of the scenario) seems to be unwilling/ unable to fully leverage the notoriety of artist Isamu Noguchi (inserting some expository text at the end of the film is too little and much too late!) and the backdrop of epoch-changing events (emerging women rights movements, major wars, etc.) enveloping America and Japan during the late 1890s and early 1900s. Acting by most of the Japanese cast is excellent and easily captures (and holds) the viewer's interest. Not so much for the American cast. The leading actress (American) and actor (Japanese) underplay their roles; their often remote/wooden acting fails to reach out and engage the viewer. Lack of drama in the midst of dramatic events can be painful to watch. Cinematography (wide screen, color) and scene lighting are fine. Sound is OK. Score is excellent, but a little bit much when it comes to string instruments. Editing joins the majority of scenes with fades to white, a less than creative linking that quickly becomes boring. Lack of continuity editing toward the end of the film looks like a frantic maneuver to pad the movie and/or insert events that could not be fully developed or completed because the money ran out. (The film also ends rather abruptly.) Not all spoken Japanese is subtitled. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
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