Wednesday, 10 November 2010

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: The Taste of Tea


The most beautifully bonkers film I have seen in a while – utterly delightful and a perfect way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon!

Firstly, the cinematography/scenery/colours are gorgeous and made me want to visit rural Japan – so many forests, mountains and peaceful idylls waiting to be discovered. The serenity of living in a place like that was expertly used in the film as well, with the characters sat out on the porch (horrible Western term, sorry, don’t know the Japanese!) drinking tea and staring off into the distance. Sometimes they would just get up and walk, exploring the depths of their minds with the exploring of new places. And there occasionally meet random folk on their travels, whose stories are non sequitur but generate a lot of laughs (baseball man, mud man, jungle girl “she’s back… AS A COMEDIAN!”)  or adding a bittersweet memory to the life of a character (the uncle visiting an ex girlfriend who is now married).

What made this film the perfect Sunday treat was that there was no plot. No concentration to be had, or linking up events, or a big twisty climax at the end – this was purely watching a family and following the various members as they went about their daily lives. I just needed a blanket and a hot cup of tea in the cinema with me and I would have been happy! And because director Katsuhito Ishii brings his vivid imagination to the filmmaking process, we get a truly unique insight into the minds of the characters – extraordinary surges of joy and sadness you just won’t see anywhere else: when the son watches a train take away the girl he loves, as he cries the train comes out of his head; or when the daughter finally manages to do a back-flip on the horizontal bar to vanish the 50 foot version of herself that’s been following her around, in her happiness the world is consumed by a giant sunflower. And then there’s the ‘shit’ story, which is just too priceless to spoil here...

The daughter was my favourite – she was such a cutie! I loved the way she believed by doing a back-flip she would get rid of the giant version of herself. Nothing else would have worked, only that – it shows the amazing power of the mind. The grandpa was also wonderful, and his interactions with the daughter were some of the best moments of the film (“why are you a triangle? WHY ARE YOU A TRIANGLE?”). But the grandpa, despite his odd ball manga pose antics, is actually the most affecting character of all, as his death leads the family to find individual flip books he drew of them, each capturing a moment in their lives which represents simple innocent happiness – I was envious of them having such a precious gift to keep! In fact, that would have been a spot-on moment to end the film, but we hadn’t had the giant sunflower eating the Universe at that point so of course it had to continue.

I feel privileged to have been part of only the second audience in the UK to have ever seen this film – it deserves a distributor for its quirky tales and heart in abundance. It leaves you feeling fuzzy with a big grin on your face and is visually stunning. Please excuse me while I go pour some miso soup and get the Go board out.





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