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Yorick van Wageningen,
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A middle-aged Japanese man travels to California to attend the wedding of his American-based friend. Prior to the big event, they take one last trip to Napa Valley, where they taste wine, dally with romance.
Just finished watching "Ogawa no hotori" (At the River's Edge), and what I found astounding in this movie, is that it doesn't stand out in any way or form, making this a bit bland experience for a Japanese jidaigeki genre film. Having said that, we are assured from the beginning, that we are on a path which is well trodden and well covered in Japanese cinema. The acting, story, and directing is what you can only call as "well defined standard" - There are no real surprises regarding the plot, no actor or actress could be really described as going over their heads - everyone just seems to be doing what they're supposed to do, without fail. The sword fights aren't in any way remarkable or even particularly memorable, as opposed to some of the greatest examples of this genre. The soundtrack with pretty much standard score, isn't anything to feel shivers on your spine either.
However, on one account, this movie is truly enjoyable: Visually, this movie is perfect as any well photographed film could be, and Japan as a country, does offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole world, and the director Tetsuo Shinohara has used it exceptionally well. Having said all of the above, the movie isn't actually seriously bad in any way either, it just fails to impress, as some recent more serious jidaigeki films have, as for example a delightfully different "Ame Agaru" (After the Rain) by Takashi Koizumi or the simply wonderful and impressive remake of "Ichimei" (Hara-Kiri) by Takashi Miike. If you aren't too demanding from your period drama films, "At The River's Edge" is still enjoyable as good and decent entertainment.
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