(Yojiro Takita, 2008)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: A gentle, beautiful picture, Japan's surprising Best Foreign Film Oscar winner is an absolute must.
Motoki Masahiro (Shall We Dance?, The Bird People in China) delivers such a rich performance in Departures that you just have to watch him, absorb his emotion and open yourself to his subtle message. He is what carries Departures to Oscar winning glory and international acclaim.
Masahiro plays a cellist whose orchestra disbands leaving him out of the job so he and his wife decide to move from the hustle bustle of Tokyo to the family home in rural Yamagata. Once there, he responds to an advert in a local newspaper for a job "assisting departures" which could well be a travel company.
Quickly hired, he discovers that the occupation is actually of that of an assistant nôkanshi, or traditional mortician, performing the Buddhist rites of washing and preparing corpses for their final journey. Shamed by this job, he keeps it a secret but begins to warm to its enriching affect on his mind.
Coming clean, his wife still despises it but he soon falls in love with his posting and pride takes over causing a rift in his life - one that the soothing role of being involved in departures helps to dissolve. This journey through the mystery of life is profound but warmer and often funnier than you'd expect as if it was a companion piece to a Billy Wilder/Jack Lemmon dreamed ala Avanti! or The Apartment.
Be sure to pick up Arrow's new release of this modern classic. It's a joyous piece that is well deserving of its accolades.
• High Definition digital transfer
• Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo options
• Optional English Subtitles
• The Making of Departures – a documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew and on set footage
• Encoffinment – the complete unedited footage of the cleansing ritual partially shown throughout the film
• Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork

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