Little Friend

“Is that the one that starts like a social realist family drama and ends like an Emir Kusturica film?” asked Chris Bourton, who’s crashing on our spare bed for the second half of the Edinburgh Film Fest. I intuited that he meant Shinji Somai’s MOVING.

The film follows twelve-year-old Tomoko Tabata, who gives just about the most entrancing child performance I’ve seen. Her parents are separating and she’s acting out, somewhat. Various schemes are devised to bring her estranged parents back together, but without success. In the end, the only solution is to become an adult.

This is accomplished, as so often in Somai’s films, with an experience of fire and water, in this case involving a burning dragon-boat at dusk — and this is where the resemblance to Kusturica and TIME OF THE GYPSIES can be felt. And it feels perfectly natural to reach this extraordinary point having started at the family dinner table.

Dinner table by Beverley and Elliot Mantle.

Somai serves up many of his trademark long takes, but since this is one of his later films he’s perhaps less fetishistic about shooting everything as a sequence shot. His edits never feel like he’s compromising with necessity, though — they are organically part of the plan.

At one point, little Tomoko dines with a very old man and his daughter. He mentions having a son and she asks where his son is.

He responds with a gesture.

And several expressions of wisdom and wonderment cross her little face… and she looks up and shouts, “Thanks for the food!”

MOVING is moving, and it’s cinematically sophisticated, and it’s a mature film by one of the best filmmakers of the 80s and 90s.

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2 Responses to “Little Friend”

  1. Sounds fascinating; have you heard anything at Edinburgh about Somai’s films getting broader post-fest exposure? I’ve wanted to see some of his work for ages but thus far my only option for something approaching reasonable comprehension is benshi narration from my Japanese-film-scholar friend.

  2. There are bootlegs with fan-subs out there, but only a few. Luminous Woman, which wowed me this afternoon, has come out on DVD in Japan, but doesn’t seem to be around anywhere. It was like Fassbinder plus Tarkovsky plus the Cinema Du Look. The best wrestling/opera movie ever.

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