Stillness, aesthetic rest, relaxed pacing, static, almost banal, framing – these are all hallmarks of the great Japanese classics of Kurosawa, Ozu, and co., and even contemporary directors like Hirokazu Kore-eda. Yes, other directors from other countries deploy these techniques, but it was Japanese cinema (particularly in the early part of the prior century) that engraved them into custom and international renown. Think of the great shots in Ozu’s Tokyo Story, of characters doing nothing yet exemplifying everything within the interplay of objects in the frame: the pairs of shoes in the bathhouse, an old couple by the sea, or the father sitting alone as the ship in the distance drifts past.
Stillness, aesthetic rest, relaxed pacing, static, almost banal, framing – these are all words you can use to describe Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s 2018 film Asako I & II. It is a solidly built thing, in terms of its structure (you are never lost or confused as to what is happening), but composure can be deceiving. What might be construed as elegance, an aesthetic serenity, is really just detached posing, a pretty exterior that mirrors the elfin perfection of the film’s protagonist, Asako – and just as empty, within. […]