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Departures (Okuribito, おくりびと)

Director – Yojiro Takita – 2008 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

*****

An unemployed cellist finds himself working on the encoffination of corpses prior to their cremation – in cinemas Friday, December 4th 2009

Winner of 2009’s Best Foreign Film Oscar (and numerous other awards besides), this Japanese entry is a rarity in that it deals head on with death not in its horrific or violent aspects (as in numerous horror and action movies) but in a life ritual as significant as birth. Death being the last great contemporary Western taboo, we in the West ought to pay attention.

Daigo (Masahiro Motokii Gemini, Shinya Tsukamoto, 1999) loses his new job as a cellist when the Tokyo orchestra employing him is dissolved, leaving him with a young wife to support and repayments on an expensive cello to find. Selling the instrument, the couple move back to his small home town where Daigo’s late mother has left him a house in her will.

Seeking work, he answers an ad dealing with ‘departures’, believing it a travel agency. The ad should however have read ‘the departed’, because he’s required to deal with the encoffination of corpses prior to their cremation, preparing the bodies for entry into the next life.… Read the rest