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The Mourning Forest (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) DVD Region 2

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The Mourning Forest (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

A remarkable achievement in humanistic cinema, Kawase Naomi's The Mourning Forest (a.k.a. Mogari no Mori) won the Grand Prix at the 30th Cannes Film Festival. Japan's leading female director, Kawase won the Cannes Camera d'Or in 1997 for her debut feature Moe no Suzaku, and a decade later, she shows exactly how far she has come with The Mourning Forest. The director spent the ten years in between often pointing the camera at her own life with autobiographical documentaries like Tarachime and Sky, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth, and this same sensitive, subtle, and observant eye is cast on the protagonists of her latest film. Following the physical and emotional journey of two unlikely sojourners, The Mourning Forest moves at a ponderous pace through strikingly beautiful natural environments to create a quiet hymn of warmth, tragedy, and poetic beauty.

No longer clear of mind in the senior years of his life, Shigeki (Shigeki Uda) lives in a rural nursing home, holding on to what memory he has left of his late wife Mako. Unpredictable and at times rough and feisty, Shigeki takes an interest in new caretaker Machiko (Ono Machiko, Moe no Suzaku, Eureka), a young woman still coping with the recent death of her son. The two develop a close friendship, finding in each other an inexplicable source of warmth and healing as they quarrel, giggle, and embark on minor adventures. During a car trip, Shigeki wanders off on his own into the forest and Machiko follows, unable to stop him on his quest to find Mako. Faced with cold temperatures and untrodden paths, the two journey through the night and day to a destination that beckons from their minds.

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Technical Information

Product Title: The Mourning Forest (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) The Mourning Forest (DVD) (英文字幕) (日本版) The Mourning Forest (DVD) (英文字幕) (日本版) 殯の森 The Mourning Forest (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Also known as: Mogari no Mori Mogari no Mori Mogari no Mori Mogari no Mori Mogari no Mori
Artist Name(s): Saito Yoichiro | Ono Machiko | Watanabe Makiko | Uda Shigeki | Masuda Kanako 齊藤陽一郎 | 尾野真千子 | 渡邊真起子 | Uda Shigeki | Masuda Kanako 齐藤阳一郎 | 尾野真千子 | 渡边真起子 | Uda Shigeki | Masuda Kanako 斎藤陽一郎 | 尾野真千子 | 渡辺真起子 | うだしげき | ますだかなこ Saito Yoichiro | Ono Machiko | Watanabe Makiko | Uda Shigeki | Masuda Kanako
Director: Kawase Naomi 河瀨直美 河濑直美 河瀬直美 Kawase Naomi
Release Date: 2008-04-25
Publisher Product Code: NSDS-11967
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English
Place of Origin: France, Japan
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Disc Format(s): DVD
Region Code: 2 - Japan, Europe, South Africa, Greenland and the Middle East (including Egypt) What is it?
Other Information: DVD
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1010658999

Product Information

タイトル:殯の森
出演:うだしげき/尾野真千子/渡辺真起子/斎藤陽一郎/ますだかなこ
監督:河?P直美(監督)/河?P直美(脚本)/河?P直美(プロデュース)/中野英世(撮影)/井村正美(照明)/阿尾茂毅(録音)/磯見俊裕(美術)/茂野雅道(音楽)/坂牧春佳(ピアノ演奏)/ヘンガメ・パナヒ(製作総指揮)

奈良県東部の山間の地。旧家を改装したグループホームに暮らすしげき(うだしげき)は、亡くなった妻の想い出とともに静かな日々を過ごしている。ここに新任介護福祉士としてやってきた真千子(尾野真千子)もまた、不慮の事故で子どもを亡くした喪失感を抱えて生きていた。失った者への想いとともに生きる者として、介護する側、される側という立場を超えて、少しづつ打ち溶け合っていくしげきと真千子。ある日、二人はしげきの妻が眠る森へ墓参りへと出かけていく。原初のエネルギーあふれる盛夏の森で彼らを待ち受けていたものとは・・・。
国内外で高い評価を受ける女流映像作家・河?P直美、4年ぶりの長編劇映画。 日本人監督として17年ぶり、女性監督としては史上初めてカンヌ国際映画祭グランプリを受賞し、日本中が注目した超話題作! 生きてゆくこと 死にゆくこと その結び目の刻をたゆたう、森と人間の一大叙事詩。

映像特典:「殯の森を生きて〜1000年の春日杉から始まった命の物語」 (予定)/劇場予告編

テクニカル・インフォメーション
:カラー
画面:Vista-16:9LB
言語/音声:日本語:ドルビーデジタル5.1chサラウンド

その他の情報
製作年:2007
備考:1枚組
特製ブックレット付きデジパック仕様
映像特典:殯の森を生きて〜1000年の春日杉から始まった命の物語
日本小売価格:¥4700

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "The Mourning Forest (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

May 16, 2008

Cinema is a male-dominated industry in any country, but in the mighty land of Japan where the image of the sexes is, shall we say, a little old fashioned, this is even more so. Which makes Naomi Kawase's career seem doubly impressive, having achieved the kind of critical praise and western film festival attention that many of her male contemporaries can only wish for. Naomi started out making semi-autobiographical documentaries that examine important aspects of her life and upbringing in the countryside of Nara and made her first feature length drama in 1997 with Moe no Suzaku, which promptly won her the Golden Camera at Cannes. Cut to the present day and Kawase's latest film The Mourning Forest won her the Grand Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, redefining her as Japan's highest profile, and perhaps most important female figure on the international film scene.

The Mourning Forest is centred around the relationship between a rookie female caretaker and a male patient at an old folks home in the countryside of Nara. Both are haunted by the loss of the most important people in their lives; Machiko has recently lost her son in an unexplained accident, and the senile Shigeki is haunted by memories and visions of his beautiful wife Mako, who died 33 years ago. Initially their relationship is strained when Machiko's naivete in her job infringes on Shigeki's privacy, but soon they quickly bond and one day the pair head off on a day trip which is cut short when a boulder falls onto the road in front of them, causing Machiko to crash the car. Having no choice but to leave Shigeki alone in the car while she runs to find help, Machiko returns a short while later to find the old man has wandered off on his own. Eventually she catches up to him at the threshold of a huge forest, but she is too tired to stop the older, but still larger and stronger, man from wandering into the forest, having no choice but to tag along until they are so deep inside that they lose all sense of direction. What begins is a long metaphorical journey of self discovery, as Shigeki says he is going to where Mako is, and Machiko tries to keep him out of danger while hoping they can navigate a way out.

If I had to describe Kawase's films in one word to a layman who perhaps hasn't had much experience with minimalist Japanese arthouse cinema, then that word would be "challenging". The reasons are quite simple, Kawase's fictional dramas are characterised by their semi-documentary approach, usually incorporating real footage of genuine inhabitants of Nara going through their daily life in the sleepy, impoverished rural areas of the city. Kawase is also unflinching in her attempts to capture pure naturalism from her performers (who more often than not aren't professional actors), using almost excessively prolonged takes and natural lighting in locations, while completely foregoing any type of conventional film scoring. She also likes to dwell on static shots of rural scenery, sometimes to demonstrate the passage of time, but other times to simply evoke a sense of ethereal peace and beauty.

In this regard The Mourning Forest is very much an atypical Naomi Kawase film; sure she expands a little on her normal approach towards narrative by incorporating some very interesting (and naturalistic) flashbacks and dream sequences, but overall this latest entry covers all the familiar themes of loss, grief and abandonment, while Kawase's camera lingers over the beautiful Nara scenery surrounding the characters. The film is basically structured around two acts: There's the opening act that introduces us to the old folks home where Shigeki lives and Machiko has just started working, and then there's this long second act where these two characters simply wander around inside a forest for almost an hour. In neither of these acts does Kawase spoon-feed the viewer, there's not really any sense of narrative and whenever she does need to relay exposition about the lead characters, she does so in an elliptical way. For instance in one scene one of the caretakers at the home is questioning a female patient on what it felt like to lose a child, to which she gives us an answer as the camera focuses on Machiko at the periphery of the room, or there's the introduction of Shigeki who is asking a visiting monk "am I alive?", to which the monk offers a lengthy explanation that culminates in him asking Machiko to place her hand on Shigeki's and ask a polite question so he can respond. The idea is that so long as Shigeki feels Machiko's presence and can respond to her, he can feel the sensation of being alive. This is the fundamental dynamic of the film, with Shigeki and Machiko working as symbolic surrogates for the lost loved ones who are the focus of their grief - something that is highlighted in a playful scene where the impetuous and unruly Shigeki is in high spirits and mucking about with Machiko in the privet fields outside the home. But this isn't to say that Kawase is so completely devoted to naturalism and indirect exposition that she doesn't offer a direct peek inside the mind of the characters; in fact one of the most touching scenes in the film that demonstrates Shigeki's segmented memory is a brief dream he has of accompanying Mako on the piano, only to gradually forget what notes to play as she gets up and walks away.

If there was little in the form of narrative and noticeably scripted dialogue in the opening act, the second act, as Shigeki and Machiko wander into the forest is almost completely devoted to a naturalistic, metaphorical journey with the wild overgrown environment acting as an incubator and metaphor for the strained mental state of the protagonists, Kawase adopts a full on documentary style by simply having cinematographer Hideyo Nakano run behind and occasionally around the pair with his handheld camera. While the opening act quickly developed the relationship between Machiko and Shigeki from awkward to warm playfulness, the forest act develops their bond much more deliberately and subtly, as Machiko gradually gives herself over to Shigeki's spiritual quest and eventually they connect with each other's soul. It is here when the performances of Machiko Ono and Shigeki Uda really come into their own. Ono was discovered by Kawase back in 1997 when she cast the then non-professional actress in Moe no Suzaku, and she has since found roles in a series of impressive dramas, like Eureka and Ramblers. She naturalistically displays Machiko's withdrawn nature and naivete in the opening act and subtly handles the broader emotions in the closing act. There's one scene where Machiko breaks down as Shigeki attempts to cross a wild stream, seemingly invoking unstated painful memories of her own child's death, where Ono emotes an intense and prolonged sense of complete hysteria. It is the most important scene in the film as far as Machiko's character arc goes (with Shigeki imparting a gentle life lesson) and Ono completely nails it. Shigeki Uda is just as impressive in what is probably the harder role to pull off, given the nuances of portraying someone who is removed from reality. His performance is extremely disciplined and never falters.

In real life, the grief of losing a loved one is an unquantifiable emotion that no amount of words or condolences can wash away. In Mourning Forest Naomi Kawase doesn't seek to break through this incomprehensibility and offer insight, but merely exhibit it, keeping the viewer as naive and captured by Shigeki's rambling as Machiko is. This makes for a somewhat awkward, at times frustratingly drawn out viewing experience, but one that is strangely powerful and certainly holds up well to repeat viewings. One thing is for sure, this is not a film for anyone with even a remotely short attention span.

DVD
The Mourning Forest is released on r2j by NHK Enterprises and comes bound in a open-book style digipack with an attractively designed 32-page film info and picture booklet and a small foldout leaflet advertising the r2j releases of The Mourning Forest and The Naomi Kawase Documentary Boxset.

Presented anamorphically at 1.85:1, NHK have provided a pretty impressive progressive transfer that has no major faults to point out. The print used is in excellent condition, with only one or two nicks and scratches present, and detail is very solid – without the use of any Edge Enhancements. So we have a very natural image, which has very good brightness and contrast levels (some scenes may appear too dark, but that's mainly down to Kawase's predilection for natural lighting) and strong colour reproduction that is free from bleeding. The compression is also good, with only minor, non-distractible, chroma and low-level noise creeping into certain scenes. It certainly does justice to Kawase's beautiful scenery shooting.

Unusually for such a minimalist drama, the only audio option available is a Japanese DD5.1 soundtrack. It doesn't have a tremendous amount of work to do really, and the quality is high. Dialogue is loud and clear, with no distortion and bass levels are strong, although could be just a little tighter. While dialogue takes up the front centre channel, the stereos are used for the environmental sounds, which the voice of the wind making its presence felt. Here, the front soundstage is quite expressive during the multiple shots of the Nara countryside, with the wind blowing clear around the viewer. The rears aren't used quite so noticeably, but when needed they too exhibit a solid soundstage.

Optional English subtitles are present, with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.

Extras
Aside from the Theatrical Trailer, the only extra feature is a 47-minute Making of Documentary which appears to cover all aspects of the production, from newspaper articles that must have inspired Kawase's choice of locations. The behind-the-scenes footage of the film's production is interspersed with interviews with the cast and crew, and we also get a closer look at the beautiful countryside locations of the film shoot; as well as more footage of the funeral precession that opens the film. The behind-the-scenes footage also incorporates a Kawase-style video diary-esque look at Naomi the director's time on the set with her family, and shows how much emotion she puts into her work. Finally, at the end is some brief footage from the film's run at Cannes, including the moment the film won the Grand Prize.

It's a shame that there are no English subtitles, as the documentary is clearly more in-depth and much better made than the usual fare, but the footage of the gorgeous location shooting should hold enough interest alone. We also see the filming of a sequence where Shigeki and Machiko are shown being rescued from the woods and flown away on a helicopter, which must have been the original idea for the end of the film. So even if you're not capable of following the dialogue it's a feature that's well worth at least skimming through.

Overall
A powerful, incredibly slow-burning meditation on loss and grief, The Mourning Forest is a frustratingly minimal drama, but a wholly worthwhile one. Naomi Kawase once again proves why she is one of the most interesting directors on the Japanese arthouse scene. The r2j DVD from NHK Enterprises offers fans excellent A/V reproduction and a lengthy, but sadly un-subbed Making of Documentary, that is still worth a look even if you don't speak Japanese.

by Matt Shingleton - DVD Times

This original content has been created by or licensed to YesAsia.com, and cannot be copied or republished in any medium without the express written permission of YesAsia.com.
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