naomi kawase

Cannes 2015: ‘An’ (Sweet Red Bean Paste), a taste of Japan

Alright-ness continues at this year’s festival with the Un Certain Regard opening film An (“Sweet Red Bean Paste”) by Cannes regular Naomi Kawase. The film stars Masatoshi Nagase as Sen, a middle-aged dorayaki pastry maker with alcohol issues and Kirin Kiki as Tokue, an elderly woman eager to work as Sen’s assistant in the pastry shop. The youthful touch is provided by Kyara Uchida as a shy schoolgirl having a hard time getting along with her single mother. Reluctant at first, Sen ends up admiring Tokue’s unique bean paste making talent and employs her to the displeasure of the pastry shop’s owner. Gradually, the three generations forge an intimate friendship as their respective traumas are revealed.

Still the Water Jun Yoshinaga

GFF 2015: ‘Still the Water’ is an exquisite, Zen-infused coming of age drama

Set on the Japanese tropical island Amami, Still the Water is a Zen-infused coming of age drama, exploring the personal revelations that come with life, death and love. Directed by the Caméra d’Or winner Naomi Kawase and selected to compete for last year’s Palme, it is a serene, contemplative film that comes alive in moments of harmony and rupture. Shot using primarily handheld cameras, Kawase casts a documentarian’s gaze over what develops into a quietly forceful narrative, allowing the exquisite setting to provide much of the visual flair.

Still the Water poster

Cannes 2014: ‘Still the Water’ recedes from Kawase’s magic

Naomi Kawase’s particular brand of spiritual filmmaking reaches its most explicit in Still the Water, a coming-of-age tale mixed with themes of love, death, and nature. Though it comes across as a story still interested in exploration of big ideas through a humble sort of filmmaking, this wears Kawase’s pet themes on its sleeves and doesn’t hold back from finding ways to promptly shoving them in the audience’s faces. Because of this evident literalization, the film solely rides upon the execution of actions: dances, songs, and tears. Like the waves of its local beach, Still the Water rises and recedes, leaving it an enjoyable but infuriating mess.

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