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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (13) - Barrie Pattison reviews Doris Dorrie's FUKUSHIMA MON AMOUR (GERMANY, 2016, 104 MINUTES

(Grüße aus Fukushima/Greetings from Fukushima/Fukushima Mon Amour)

Anything from from Doris Dörrie is an event, though the new film is not as assured as her
best work. It repeats her attempt to come to terms with Japanese culture that we saw in
Erleuchtung garantiert/ Enlightenment Guaranteed
  and Cherry Blossoms but moves us
into the new area for her of scary ghost movie, done in striking ‘Scope black & white.

After a disaster that leaves her trying to hang herself in her bridal gown, very blonde Rosalie Thomass leaves Germany for what proves to be a gig as clown entertainer in a
hostel for aged refugees from the Fukushima melt down. Unlike her Japanese mentor’s
plastic bag ballet, her Hula Hoops exercise routine fails to engage the oldies. One gives her a demo and comments “Bullshit.”

Our heroine is about to give up when she’s recruited by another resident, Kaori Momoi
(Memoirs of a Geisha, Sukiyaki Western Django), into driving her into the “safe” zone
which has now been re-opened, though no one wants to be there. Turns out that the ex-geisha has repeatedly tried to move back into her old, derelict house. The hostel people are angry but Thomass does a U-Turn seeing her new mission as working with the Japanese woman on restoring her home.

This doesn’t go all that well but with diligent scavenging the pair manage to make things
habitable. There is complication in the form of the girl ghost of  Momoi’s former pupil
who sheltered with her in the one leafless tree during the tidal way. Momoi blames
Thomass for her grief attracting the spirits and puts salt on her shoulders to drive them
off.

Turns out that there’s more to the story than she’s letting on.

The ghosts, done in stretch printed high contrast, are effective and the film carefully
emphasises the striking imagery it places in the frame - the fields of black bags filled with
contaminated soil, white compressing gates with arrows, the sash still hanging on the tree
branch, Thomass’ dress dwarfing Momoi’s daughter when she holds it up to put it in the
wash or the cat headed man.

As always Dorrie manages to make her bumbling characters endearing (the saki drinking
session with the bald priest is particularly nice) though here the veneer of charm over
disturbing material is stretched thin in a couple of places.

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