Still Walking treads softly but carries a big impact (1)

The American perspective on Japanese culture tends to obsess over the more extreme entertainment forms — the bloody samurai films, the kinky anime, the sadistic game shows — that tend to drown out the soft-spoken ones. A long tradition of Japanese film, frequently associated with Yasujir? Ozu, emphasizes serenity and naturalism. Contemporary filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda unmistakably shows Ozu’s influence and crafts the kinds of movies that calm you down rather than amp you up.

Still Walking depicts a family reunion fraught with tensions. While the tensions never explode, Koreeda observes the undercurrents so closely, the audience feels less like observers than guests at the table within arm’s reach of the tempura. That proximity may qualify as within harm’s way, given the Yokoyama family's capacity for resentment: Paterfamilias Kyohei Yokoyama (Yoshio Harada), a retired doctor, at one point snaps to one of his grown children, “It was my hard work that built this house! Why do you call it ‘Grandma’s house?’”

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(Photo Courtesy ©2008 Still Walking Production Committee/An IFC Films release)