Sweet Bean

Sentaro runs a small bakery that serves dorayaki pastries filled with sweet red bean paste (“an”). When an old lady, Tokue, offers to help in the kitchen he reluctantly accepts. She will soon prove to have magic in her hands…


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  • ★★★½ review by Graham Williamson on Letterboxd

    Reviewed on The Geek Show.

    Features perhaps the most purely gripping set-piece of bean curd preparation since, I don't know, probably Dziga Vertov's lost film Prepare That Bean Curd in Atonement for Your False Consciousness, Trotskyite Subversive! On the narrative front, Naomi Kawase is a bit less sure-footed, and it made me want to see some of her earlier documentary work to see what she can do when she's not shackled to three acts. This is only the second of her films that's been released in the UK, though - it'll be a long time until we get a proper retrospective.

  • ★★★★½ review by dirtylaundri on Letterboxd

    Although I like most of Kawase's work, I was surprised by how touching this is. The emotional exhibitionism that tainted some of her previous narrative films (although it works beautifully in the documentaries) is replaced by a much more detached sentimentality that might feel more conventional but is always rooted in poignant, expressive gestures. She even keeps her inner Malick in check this time, for the most part. Only in the end the lens flares take over. But that's ok, too, a Kawase film just needs a bit of bad taste.

  • ★★★★½ review by Chris Hormann on Letterboxd

    The gentlest of stories which manages still to make a plea for acceptance and understanding. It features a remarkable central performance by Kirin Kiki as a senior citizen, looking for a place in the world, and she comes armed with a recipe for red bean paste. Yet despite this gift, she finds herself a victim of prejudice as long-kept secrets are revealed.

    There is so much to like in his film and it unravels at a leisurely pace - like the making of the red bean paste, patience will be rewarded and not everything ends as expected. A wonderful little film, poised and in its own way, quietly powerful.

  • ★★★½ review by Tony Huang on Letterboxd


    Totally into its weepie premise, & somehow that feels right for Kawase, whose sensibility is that of an unusually direct, emotional character—the comparison might be Renoir, but there’s a touch of the mystic in Kawase that doesn’t infect others of that tribe. Often she cheats by deferring to time-honoured cinematic pleasures: food prep & nature. At least I was deeply moved by the sweet bean preparation scene, which comes pretty early on in the film. The leprosy plot, which plays out somewhat like an Issue Doc, came as a surprise—I’m hoping the rather slipshod foreshadowing was on purpose—and rather bluntly shows Kawase’s hand, since it's hard to imagine any other director springing such a specific thing on you unawares. (In some ways this is a genre convention--illness as complication--taken to a realist extreme, and all the more effective for it.) It’s at this basically inelegant meeting of the inspirational movie genre & a deeply felt document of pain, hurt, decay that one finds Kawase at her most questionable and most powerful.

  • ★★★★ review by Enfant du Siècle on Letterboxd

    Naomi Kawase's An, possibly her most accessible film, is a subtle study on solitude and compassion, but also a story about finding joy in the simple things of everyday life and freedom within yourself. Beautifully shot and with strong performances, lead by another outstanding turn by veteran Kirin Kiki, An is a delicate treat.

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