Caf Lumire (2003) Kh jik
Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
Main cast Yo Hitoto, Tadanobu Asano (Vital, Maborosi)
Very naturalistic performances in this homage to the work of master director Yasujiro Ozu. Covering familiar themes and situations and filmed in a similar way, there is very little in the way of plot and no form of resolution, in essence a study of life in modern Tokyo.
Themes include familial relations and the generation gap; the major difference between generations in the films of Ozu was the encroaching Westernisation and loss of tradition. In Caf Lumiere the parents (part of the post-war salary man generation) are confronted with different issues. They visit their daughter Yoko who tells them shes pregnant and has absolutely no intention of marrying the father, shes very disorganised in her home life and never seems to have any money thinking nothing of borrowing anything and everything from her landlady (something her stepmother finds shameful and embarrassing).
As for the parents, the father doesnt seem able to communicate his feelings, not once does he try and discuss his daughter's situation despite her stepmother constantly pushing him to, she worries that they (on their meagre pensions) cannot afford to support Yoko and the baby. There is no discussion, no confrontation and therefore no resolution to this issue.
Another favourite feature of Ozus films is trains, thats one thing you certainly get a lot of with this film, trains and tram cars, constant travelling, the hustle and bustle of city life against the comparative peace and calmness of Yoko's friend, Hajimes bookstore. Hajime (Tadanobu Asano) is one of the few people that Yoko can talk to but even then, their conversations are stilted and sparse, she doesnt even mention her pregnancy till she feels unwell.
Yoko herself is researching a Taiwanese composer Jiang Wen-ye who lived in Tokyo in the 1930s and whose music makes up the majority of the soundtrack. The one time she appears totally relaxed and open is while talking to his widow and looking through old photos and notes.
As already noted, there is no resolution to any part of the film, life carries on, things remain unsaid and when you come down to it, such is life.
A charming film that accentuates the diversity of old and new, of tradition and change and who knows, maybe just the type of film that Ozu would make were he alive today.
If you appreciate the work of Yasujiro Ozo and/or Hou Hsiao-hsien, you will almost certainly enjoy Cafe Lumiere. Personally, I'll be investing in the region 1 dvd just as soon as I can.
BBFC rating U
R2 Pal dvd available from ICA Projects. R1 ntsc dvd available from Wellspring.