'The Taste of Tea'
Katsuhito Ishii's warm and fantastical family portrait opens with a quintessentially idyllic Japanese scene: a cherry tree in full flower, its blossoms drifting to the ground like summer snow. Rather than let that image stand as lacquered, iconic tableau, Ishii guides us in and among the petals, and it is there that we find the dream-lives of the Haruno family. Living in a small mountain town outside of Tokyo, the Harunos (including a hypnotist father, semi-retired animator mother, chronically love-struck teen son, and deftly pensive eight-year-old daughter) are Ishii's palette for a muralistic treatment of quotidian Japanese life that is at once languid and lively. As with the family dramas of Yasujiro Ozu, plot here is deemed superfluous in the face of big days at work or school and little wonders at home. Ishii's domestic frame is as tightly packed and layered as his horizons are expansive. Like Ozu, he is adept at visually representing the familial realm, hanging on seemingly inconsequential moments of congress several beats too long, until the spaceand his subjectsare transformed.
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