Shochiku Studio of Japan commissioned several directors to create films reflecting on the themes of Ozu Yasujiro on the centenary of the director's birth. Here we find Inoue Yoko, an apparently single young woman who is pregnant, searching for a small cafe that was often visited by a Taiwanese composer whose life she is researching. She herself is back from Taiwan and receiving help from a book store clerk, but she first has to contend with the her own reality which includes her parents.Written by
The film was first conceived as a three-part anthology film, each segment directed by a different person, to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu. However, the other two directors dropped out before filming started, and Hou decided to make the entire film himself. See more »
No user comments from me for some time. It would be arrogant to suggest that I have fans out there who may be speculating why someone who for so long penned at least one review each week has remained largely silent. I can hardly remember the last time my words evoked a response but if by any chance someone may be wondering about my silence I can answer in one word - disappointment. For me the main reason for writing criticism is to impart enthusiasm for works that have excited and moved me in some way which is why my eulogies far outweigh adverse comments. If I ever venture into the latter territory it is generally to question something that I feel has been excessively praised. What I find disappointing about many of the films I have chanced to see recently is that several have been made by directors I very much admire; the two Chinese titans for instance, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. How could the former for instance have conceived "Together", a facile foray into the "mystique" of musical talent beside which Wes Craven's "Music of the Heart" seems almost something of a masterpiece, or the latter's "House of Flying Daggers", yet another martial arts kids flick and nowhere near as much fun as Ryhei Kitamuru's "Azumi". Even Michael Haneke, the Austrian master of unease was way below his usual form with his Armageddon vision "Time of the Wolf" which somehow lacked the incisiveness that someone like Tarkovsky might have given to so potentially powerful a theme. I could go on and cite others but there would be little point. However the greatest disappointment of them all can hardly go unmentioned as it involves two directors whose work I absolutely reverence. I refer to the Taiwanese Hou Hsiao-Hsien's tribute to the Japanese Yasujiro Ozu on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, "Cafe Lumiere". How could such a great opportunity so sadly misfire? Try as I can - I have given it three viewings - I cannot discover the film's secrets. The storyline is basically very simple. A young Japanese woman returns to her home in Tokyo from a visit to Taiwan where she has been engaged on research into the work of a Taiwanese composer. She confronts her parents with the fact that she is pregnant by a Taiwanese boyfriend but is clear in her mind that she has no intention of marriage. In Tokyo her friend and confidante is a young bookseller whose main obsession is the local railway scene. When not sitting in his bookshop he is out and about making recordings of railway sounds. And that's about it. True there is a sort of homage to Ozu's minimalist style: long sequences without camera movement punctuated by carefully composed shots of settings (here, as occasionally in Ozu, trains and stations). What is missing is content. Ozu's films are carefully constructed studies of human relationship. His characters are vibrant and beautifully drawn with tensions between different generations always subtly realised. Perhaps he has only one basic message to impart, that life is disappointing, but the fascination of his work lies in the seemingly endless different ways he has of saying this. In Hou's tribute we have nothing but the disappointment of a curiously empty film.
7 of 17 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this