June 27, 2005

Can We Steep Tadanobu Asano In A Cup of Hot Water and Call It Tea?

taste of tea will blow a hole in your mind

In Katsuhito Ishii's world, when your crush leaves on the tram it's as though her train has ridden a whole through your head. Still from Taste of Tea (2004).

OMG, cinecultists. Too much to do, especially at that work place. As you may or may not have noticed, once every three weeks CC disappears for about a week. That's because all our brain can possibly deal with during that period is working, eating and sleeping -- sadly in that order. We should probably post some "don't worry, we're not dead" posts during that time, but even that would take more energy than we've got when the magazine is closing. It's crazy. Maybe next month, we'll look into employing a guest blogger for a few days. If you have any interest in that (self-congratulations and movie rambling), drop us a line.

Anyhow. Excuses, excuses. We have some catching up to do. Where has the Cinecultist been and what have we been watching in the last week or so? Some good things and some crap things, bunnies. Firstly, one of the good things: Katsuhito Ishii's Taste of Tea at Subway Cinema. Wow. Phenomenal. One of the best movies we've watched this year, though of course it's a 2004 film made in Japan which hasn't seen a wide American theatrical release. Hopefully an indie distributor will see fit to rectify this because this is really a movie you should see.

Unlike many of the Japanese flicks getting press these days for their popcorn-eschewing, extreme-sadism-is-fun gross-out factor Taste of Tea's sweet, bizarre sensibility reminded us more of Amelie than anything else. A little magical realism, a few unforgettable eccentrics, and then ordinary people just looking out at their world in unusual ways. One of this film's real gems is Tatsuya Gashuin who plays the weirdo Grandfather in this lovely little suburban family (hypnotist Dad, animator Mom, romantic/nerd Son, pensive Daughter, quiet Uncle). An Ishii regular (in all three of his movies), Gashuin does a musical number, complete with electric keyboard and Mr. Roboto dance moves, in an ode to the mountain which had us hysterical. We haven't laughed like that at the movies since the garden gnome sent postcards from Moscow to Amelie's papa.

Too much plot-ness happens to each of the characters to get into a more detailed sketch of the proceedings here but still the movie also makes time to lapse into contemplative visual moments like the falling cherry or the full moon. There's joke telling but also some sentimentality. Asano is great in this as the Uncle, as we predicted, but our deep love for this movie isn't only about our Asano fandom. It's about this amazing world created in this movie that when the credits rolled after nearly 2 and a half hours we still didn't want to leave.

Our only complaint? No A/C in Anthology Film Archives on Sunday night made for a very sticky Cinecultist. There were Japanese shrimp chips to be had at the concession stand but with no central air, authentic snacks and goofy pre-movie give aways seem like small potatoes in terms of effort for audience comfort.

Posted by karen at June 27, 2005 10:23 PM