Monday, June 29, 2009
If this German film ever spent time on American screens other than at film festivals, I didn't know of it. I probably would have skipped it anyway, as the description makes it sound very sensitive, and I'm not.
However, based on good reviews at Netflix, I borrowed the DVD and watching it was rewarding. It's hard to describe the story without including spoilers; if you want, though, IMDb will give you the particulars.
The writer and director, Doris Dörrie — new to me, although she has previous credits — could hardly have been more ambitious with Cherry Blossoms. It takes on the big themes: aging, the loss of a marriage partner through death, strained relationships between parents and adult children, art (in this case, Japanese ritual dance) as consolation, an East-West cross-cultural meeting of hearts, beauty as transcendence. It takes each of these seriously, with no easy "hugging" resolutions.
I don't mean to make Cherry Blossoms sound like a solemn downer. It has its uncomfortable moments, which are integral to the drama, but for the most part is honestly bittersweet, and sometimes radiant. The script is somewhat contrived, in that it's unlikely the events would happen this way in the non-cinematic world, but within its own frame of reference the connections between people and events make sense.
All the actors are just fine, and in lead roles Elmar Wepper, Hannelore Elsner, and the enchanting Aya Irizuki are no better than perfect. The last 45 minutes or so of Cherry Blossoms are as close to pure poetry as you are likely to see in a long time.