Monday, December 03, 2007

Kôhî jikô (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2003) aka Café Lumière

Café Lumière (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2003)
Ratings: 8.3

As the opening credit informs us, Hou made this film for the centenary of Yasujiro Ozu's birth. The two artist's have very different backgrounds and approaches to filmmaking; Hou shooting independently financed films on location, and Ozu coming from the stringent Japanse studio system. Despite these differences, both filmmakers share the commonalities of portraying everyday human emotion. For this particular film, Hou experiments by working under similar conditions as Ozu. He strays from his homeland of Taiwan and makes a budgeted film under a studio in Japan. Ozu's influence in Café Lumière is apparent as Hou explores family values, social criticisms, and most importantly traditionalism vs. modernity. Despite the slight adaptation, Hou incorporates many of his stylistic traits, including long static takes, claustrophobic framings, as well as obstructed and sometimes off-screen action. The film follows Yoko, played by Japanese pop idol Yo Hitoto, as she struggles to connect with people. She even remains distant with her family and friends. This is most overt when we see Yoko on her cell phone, disconnected from reality in a sense, which occurs in close to a dozen instances. Later we discover that Yoko is pregnant and adopted, although not all at once. The biological father of her child has moved to Thailand, however local bookstore owner Hajime (Tadanobu Asano) who records train sounds in his spare time, becomes a potential replacement as he forges a meaningful relationship with Yoko. The film captures the beautiful moments of solitude in everyday life, as Yoko stares out the train window, lost in her reflections, taking in the sights and sounds, yet the Hou also emphasizes the essential human need for relationships; familial and otherwise.

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