Journey to the Shore
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Mizuki’s husband Yusuke went missing for 3 years. He suddenly comes back home one day and asks Mizuki to go on a trip with him. Their trip consists of visiting the people that helped Yusuke on his previous travel. While travelling together, Misuki sees, touches and feels what Yusuke did for those 3 years.
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★★★½ review by Keaton B on Letterboxd
Wasn't Kurosawa supposed to be a horror directer...? Maybe I haven't seen the right films. Actually, this is only my third one.
There are some eerie moments in the film, and there's an undercurrent of darkness, but I wouldn't classify this as horror.
It's more like a metaphysical love story about loss and communication, at times touching but at other times rather banal. It definitely kept my interest though. But maybe since I was expecting something like a genre horror film, it surprised me a little.
I should come back to this one after watching some other Kurosawa films.
★★★★★ review by Mike Thorn on Letterboxd
Kurosawa's craft is note-by-note perfect; the film crept up on me and took hold before I could even register what it was doing.
★★★★ review by Matt Turner on Letterboxd
A gently manipulative, deeply moving ghost romance from a director with a fixation with the spirit world, in Journey to the Shore Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu) is visited by her husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano) three years after his death. Together they travel across Japan, him guiding her A Christmas Carol style through three scenarios where other ghosts exist in union with the living, places he had spent time since dying. Each begins harmoniously, a strange and disquieting cohabitation of the living and dead, before fading and crumbling.
During these visitations, there are several moments of intensely heightened emotion, namely a cross-dimensional piano recital and the final resting of an old man unable to accept his own misgivings and pass on. As well as the strength of the performances, all in a minor key but hugely affecting regardless, these are heightened by the restraint and precision shown by Kurosawa in the lead up to them, a combination of tightly controlled camera movements, a precision in narrative construction and the considered use of indoor lighting that shifts evocatively mid-scene to isolate and intensify aspects of the frame. As in last feature Real, Kurosawa creates a film that shifts between tones and genres seamlessly, mixing horror elements with moments of lightness and comedy, all the while maintaining a pervasive sense of melancholy that rests behind the joy of reunion. Though he wavers occasionally and wanders slightly into the maudlin, the overall control is commendable.
Chris Fujiwara called it a film about “remarriage,” about a couple learning again how to love each other anew, unburdened of the wearying toll of long term marriage; but it is also a potent, if obvious, metaphor for the grieving process and the challenge of closure amidst a deluge of unanswered questions and unknowable possibilities. Journey to the Sea is a fairly traditional, easily digestible film by Kurosawa’s standards, reminiscent of one of Hirokazu Koreeda’s more sentimental, backward-looking films in some ways; but its also a heartbreaking one, bringing moments of great trauma that hit with an unannounced, profound immediacy.
★★★★½ review by Julius Banzon on Letterboxd
The shaggiest of dog stories. Is there a god? Is there something in nothing? Are we just zeroes in a nascent universe? Well, he's still dead.
Everything is curiously unrelatable, as if Kurosawa lives among a class of human beings with only artful dead loved one stories, where they've spent their lives thinking theoretically about their trauma rather than actually feeling it. It is a typical symptom of Kurosawa, whose ideas are so rarefied, his depiction of human beings so conceptual rather than self-inhabited, that we don't feel or inhabit his characters and their emotions so much as we continuously ponder them. It's hard to follow Kurosawa's train of thought, as he constantly interrupts moments of revelation, dares himself with new editing techniques, fills every moment with new aesthetic ideas. It's a sign of a New Wave Poetic Pragmatism. It makes Kurosawa's style and narrative irreducible, through a plainspokenness. What is reducible is his unwavering interest in death and life. This film may be his most baffling and meandering film, but I bumped it at least a quarter of a point for being probably the type of film Kurosawa has been wanting to make all along. A non-tightly-controlled product hung together with Sirkian music and a willingness to upset all things and everything.
★★★★★ review by Diogo Vale on Letterboxd
Despite the similarities to his fellow countryman Koreeda's films, the film that Kurosawa's latest reminded me the most of was Manoel de Oliveira's O Estranho Caso de Angélica. Both films and both films' characters seem to be looking for something - the meaning of life, the meaning of death or some other form existential understanding. de Oliveira was at a much different point of his carrer and life when he made Angélica to where Kurosawa is right now, but in both cases, it seems appropriate: Manoel de Oliveira was at a very advanced age when he made his penultimate feature and death was looming over him constantly (it should come as no surprise that that film also serves as an epitaph of sorts, written by the director himself), while Kiyoshi Kurosawa (and I say this not being by any means an expert on the filmmaker's oeuvre) seems to be reinventing himself since Tokyo Sonata, looking for something more. When you translate cinema into life, then it makes sense that that "more" he's looking for has something to do with death, the afterlife, the metaphysical.
The approach the two director's adopted in their quests is something of a "back to basics" nature - de Oliveira makes gorgeous references to mute cinema, Kurosawa, being a director much involved in the plastic nature of cinema, in the bending of form adopts a more traditional style but very intuitive as well, it seems. The natural feel of the film people talk about, in my opinion, comes much from this: Kurosawa doesn't really actively try to push the boundaries of cinema, but rather tries to be as blunt as he can, hiding nothing, using simple cause-consequence thinking: music queues are somewhat predictable for they always come at the exact time, a simple solution typical of melodramas to increase the emotional impact; lighting is unashamedly changed mid-shot to convey greater importance to certain elements of the frame and to better suit its content (the plot); camera placement and movement seems equally intuitive, as what appears to be fairly simple, upon closer examination, reveals itself to be profoundly inspired (the same thing happens with O Estranho Caso de Angélica). It reminds of that famous Picasso quote: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.". While in Manoel de Oliveira's case it feels like the work of a trained master (maybe because of his attention to detail - despite that apparent simplicity, Angélica still provides a great deal of richness and is almost as baroque as any most other films of the Portuguese auteur), Kurosawa's willingless to keep everything simple render his formal precision the feel of an immensely inspired rookie who somehow gets just about everything right. Journey to the Shore excels in this territory, the paradoxical equilibrium between learned mastery and intuitiveness.
All this is pretty amazing, but what elevates Journey to the Shore to transcendence is the complexity at work behind it. Often times, the dialogue references the formal aspects of the film, as an advice given by the main female character to a little girl playing piano that tells her to play in her own tempo, "slowly but correctly" (mistake not, Journey to the Shore is borderline Slow/Contemplative Cinema, which led some people to nickname it, unfortunately, "Journey to the Snore"), or many lines praising the beauty of simplicity. Kurosawa dwells on everyday activities as cooking and cleaning with great serenity and Mizuki, after coming out of a public bath (a perfectly normal moment), says that that might be her favourite moment of her entire life. In another scene (reminescent of a similar scene near the end of Angélica where characters discuss science at the dinner table), Yusuke teaches villagers about light and how it is a particle with null mass and the expanding Universe. Meta-text becomes meta-meta-text when these formal elements themselves stand for everything I talked about in previous paragraphs. When Yusuke teaches the villagers the beauty of life, Kurosawa teaches us the simple pleasures of cinema. And when we arrive on the shore, a destination as suitable as any other, beautiful as everywhere else in the world, we magically burn a manuscript to go back home, a home which is never seen. We all arrive at our destination eventually but it doesn't really matter because the journey is what is important. And we don't know what happens afterwards, we don't know what "home" looks like.
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