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After Life
After Life (Soundtrack)

After Life Review

Directed By: Hirokazu Kore-eda.
Starring: Arata, Susuma Terajima, Takashi Naitô, Taketoshi Naitô, Erika Oda.

Synopsis: What you are about to read is the typical publicity-speak of the studios - Following his astonishing feature debut with the internationally acclaimed Maborosi, Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to center stage with a feature of inspired depth and beauty. After Life is a film centrifugally spun from a striking premise: If our passage to the afterlife demands that we erase all memories but one, what will that memory be? Countering its thematic richness with generous humor and a simple, uncluttered aesthetic, After Life is a film to treasure, savor and revere. In an enigmatic way station suspended somewhere between Heaven and Earth, the newly-dead register their arrival and await their transfer to the great beyond. Shortly after arrival, a team of congenial guides explains to the dead that their ascent to Heaven demands the eradication of all memories but one, and they have a week to select that one defining moment. But as the dead and their guides quickly discover, reducing life's meaning to a single event is nearly impossible. As facilitators of this process, the guides urge a decision, then set about directing the cinematic reenactments of the memories selected. Inspired by his grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's, Kore-eda returns to his roots as a documentarian, sculpting his narrative from the recollections of hundreds of elderly Japanese (some of whom join the cast of the film). Their stories reveal not only individual joys and fears but serve as a vital compendium of postwar Japanese society and a striking testimony to the fragility and fluidity of memory.

This is a slow-moving movie. There...I said it...I was afraid to. I was afraid to say it was soooooo slow. But, and this is where I want you to perk up and pay attention for a nano-second you cheerful little MTV brat you! It's slow on purpose and it is fascinating because of it.

The persistence of memory, the one pure thought that encompasses your life becomes something you find yourself contemplating as you watch the character's struggle with this themselves. Is there a single moment in your life that, if you were to die tomorrow, would be the one you want for the rest of 'whateverness'?

In some ways, the documentarian look of the film actually began to put me on edge as scenes were stretched through uncomfortable moments, a man watching his life, looking for 'evidence of life' on videotapes of his existence. Another young man refuses to choose, preferring to accept the consequences of his life...whatever they may be.

Well thought out, and though executing a low-budget look the shots and obviously with the intentional passing of fours seasons within a week, carefully plotted and put together. This is one for the film students to argue over, though most will embrace as it portrays film makers as part of the passageway to the other side of life. (Once a memory is chosen by the recently departed, it is shot on film for the individual and they can take that film onto the next leg of their journey.)

Oddly enough, it has taken a few days for me to sit down and figure out what it was that I liked about this film. The style employed is not my cup of tea, the actors could have been coasting for all I know of the language but the sub-titles worked for me, the pacing was slow...but if I am on my way through the gates of life into death, I think I have some time to spare. [Note: If you do sit and watch this....wait until you see one of the 'dead' guys, who looks like a Japanese Walter Matthau...believe me, if you watch the film you can't miss him.]

The Japanese title of this film Wandafuru raifu actually translates into Wonderful Life, a tip of the hat to Frank Capra...and maybe that's what strikes me about this film. Like so many of Capra's greatest films, this is about what makes us human, unique, be it good or bad...and what we are willing to take with us when life (if such a thing should occur) comes to an end.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

DVD Information:

Special Features:
Scene Selections
Japanese & American Trailers
Production Notes
Web Links
Director's Profile & More!
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Audio: JAPANESE: Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English

The DVD Review:
Sadly this is one of those DVD's that you must buy as a fan of themovie and not to be spurred on by any special extra's, as there are no extras on the disc!

Evil Ash

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