Thursday, 18 October 2007

Cafe Lumiere

He is Hou

Hou is from china

Houever 'Café Lumière' is set in japan(nothing to do with case you somehow have an odd feeling that it is)…

The plot may be almost non-existent, but who cares when a film is both this serenelybeautiful and quietly insightful. Cafe Lumiere (2003) was commissioned bythe Japanese studio Shochiku, which asked Hou to create an homage to itsmost famous house director, Yasujiro Ozu, in celebration of the centennialof his birth. So Café Lumière’s first shot — in Ozu’s Academy ratio ratherthan the widescreen of the rest of the film — is the old colour ShochikuMount Fuji logo. And what of the story itself? Japanese pop star Yo Hitoto plays Yoko, a young woman who is visiting her father andstepmother in Tokyo. She returns from Taiwan with news that she is pregnant by herformer Taiwanese student, but she has no plans to get married. Of course, herparents want the best for her, but they can't quite communicate with Yoko(especially her father), nor can she express herself very well to them. Yoko isfriends with Hajime (Tadanobu Asano), the owner of a secondhand bookstore that shefrequents on occasion. Hajime is a serious train buff and spends his free timerecording the sounds of trains. The two seem to share a connection.

The strengthsof Café Lumière are: the subtle, underplayed narrative style; the way Hou generatesthe meaning of his Tokyo story visually rather than through dialogue; the slightlydistanced perspective that enhances the delicate beauty of the film. Certainly, itshares certain stylistic tropes and themes familiar from the great director’s work – the low placed camera; the static shots; familial relationshipsbetween the generations – yet in the end, the differences between Hou’s and Ozu’sfilm worlds are as great as their similarities. But if these two great directors aretraveling along separate though parallel lines, this journey with Hou is nothingless than a magnificent one.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR: Of the ten films that Hsiao-hsien Hou directed between 1980 and1989, seven received best film or best director awards from prestigiousinternational films festivals in Venice, Berlin, Hawaii, and the Festival of theThree Continents in Nantes. In a 1988 worldwide critics' poll, Hou was championedas "one of the three directors most crucial to the future of cinema." His emotionally charged work is replete with highly nostalgic images and beautifulcompositions; their power lies in his total identification with the past and thefate of families who suffered through difficult times in rural Taiwan in the 1950sand 1960s which saw the beginning of Western-style industrialization andurbanization. The normal frustrations of growing up were aggravated by thesecomplicated changes, and Hou's films are intimate expressions of those experiences.In a poetic yet relaxed style, they reflect a deep sympathy & profound humanism.

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1 comment:

Rohit said...

I felt like writing what I thought about this film right after seeing it. But only now did I get the time and inclination to share my views.

Cafe Lumiere was a huge disappointment for me. As a fan of the couple of Ozu films that I've seen, I had to strain to find the same feeling in this supposed tribute to Ozu by Hou.

The film is indifferent to the point of being cold. Whereas Ozu could generate mood and meaning without the necessity of plot, Cafe Lumiere takes this idea too literally and shows it off proudly, almost intimidating viewers to challenge the anti-narrative.

I admit there were some interesting ideas and that certain moments but all in all, I thought it was quite pretentious. If not for the Ozu name attached to it, I'm sure it would be viewed differently.

Rohit Iyer