Way, way back in the year 2000, I wrote a piece about the Vancouver Film Festival and mentioned that it was there that I first saw a film by Hirokazu Kore-eda. The film was After Life and I’d seen it, and almost immediately thereafter, been introduced to Kore-eda. I wasn’t too sure what to say to him beyond that I thought his film was fabulous. Every time I’ve watched After Life since the sensation of seeing one of the very greatest films of all times simply overwhelms me.
I can resist quoting what I wrote way back then: After Life (1998) shows a group of clerks assembling at the beginning of the day in what looks like a run down East European housing estate. The place though is limbo and the clerks’ job is to receive clients for processing on their way to their afterlife. They will ask them to search their memories and recreate the most blissful moment of their lives. That is the memory they will take with them on their journey to the hereafter. This is the stuff of fantasy, but presented with a quiet almost documentary feel: it is a narrative that engages and uplifts the spirit, a film about overcoming grief and finding spiritual meaning and purpose in even the most banal and unfulfilled lives. It is a film which seeks to find the good in people’s lives. It is, dare I say it, a masterpiece, and I expected then it would soon become the subject of considerable international admiration.
Since that time Kore-eda has become a major figure in world cinema. His films get invited into the prestigious European film competitions and then spread out into the second tier of festivals around the world. He has now made eleven features (and a number of documentaries some of which inform his feature film making) in a career lasting over twenty years. Not a huge output but one of the highest quality and one that has produced a couple more films of true greatness. He is today’s most humanitarian film-maker and every film seems to emerge as some carefully considered work drawing mostly on the tropes of modern Japan for its subject and the classical Japanese cinema for inspiration.
This year Kore-eda presented his newest film at Cannes and after screening there it was duly invited to MIFF. Now it is Sydney’s turn and the film, which I haven’t seen, will screen as the opening night of the forthcoming Japanese Film Festival which goes on from 17 to 27 November.
The MIFF program notes tell us the following: "A gentle respect for human fallibility shines throughout After the Storm … [Kore-eda] remains one of the best filmmakers the world has." – The Village Voice
I have no idea if this will precede a commercial season. It rarely does unfortunately but, more fortunately, you cant say you didn’t have a chance to see the latest work of Japan’s greatest living film-maker for the princely sum of $16.50 or $14.50 concession. You can book here