Departures, best foreign film of the year, really is that good

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Yojiro Takita’s Departures (Japanese title is Okuribito) won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year, and if you watch the movie you’ll instantly know why. It is a stunningly raw exploration of death—I went to a screening of it this afternoon, and was blown away by it. It’s about a cello player who loses his job, moves back to his hometown, and gets a highly unusual new gig as a corpse dresser-upper.

This movie will make you think about death. It’s something many of us are uncomfortable talking about. I volunteer at an AIDS hospice once a week, and the experiences I have there are constantly reshaping my perspective on it, and the way I cope. I think Takita is brave to address death so directly in a movie and also to bring dignity back to the controversial Japanese funeral system.

Masahiro Motoki (aka Mokkun), the now-45 year old former boy band star, does an amazing job in the lead, and Ryoko Hirosue is charming in her role as his wife.

Here’s a video of the director and cast members receiving the Oscar, plus a clip of Takita saying, roughly, that the Japanese tend to want to avoid talking about death and that’s why he wanted to see how that would play out in a movie. He also gives a special shout out to Mokkun for playing a huge role in bringing the crew together and says, half of this award belongs to him:

Departures opens in the Bay area on May 29. Be sure to buy tickets and go with someone you don’t mind bawling next to. (read: Not great for a first date.)

3 thoughts on “Departures, best foreign film of the year, really is that good

  1. I thought the movie looked interesting when I saw it win at the Oscars and made a note to watch it. I finally got the chance to watch it the other night. Although I’ve only watched one other nominee of the foreign film category this one was the better of the two and so far very deserving of the award. (The other being Baader Meinhof Complex which was also worth a watch for anyone interested) Anyway, the subject matter for departures was kind of putting me off at first, but it was interesting and the acting was impressive as well.