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Swan Song

Director – Todd Stephens – 2021 – US – Cert. – 105m

***1/2

Tasked with creating an open casket hairdo for his deceased, former best client, a hairdresser worn down by care home institutionalism escapes to reinvent himself – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

A glamourous star on a stage playing to an audience of empty chairs, Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) wakes up to the boring reality that he’s living on social security checks and wearing an old T-shirt and sweat pants in a care home in his small town of Sandusky, Ohio.

Still, he takes his pleasures where he can find them: stealing napkins from the dining room and obsessively folding them into squares a quarter of their original size, smoking ladies’ More brand cigars. The latter he lights two at once after turning the wheelchair of Gertie (Annie Kitral) – left out in the corridor – to face the window before giving her the second cigar, something in which she clearly takes pleasure despite near total paralysis.

Otherwise, though, he battles with his nurse Shaundell (Roshon Thomas) over adjusting his armchair cushion and, worse, smoking, a pleasure she forbids. He swallows a cigar to conceal the activity; she finds out and confiscates his stash.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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