Director Katsuhito Ishii’s whimsical episodic tale chronicles a summer in the lives of the quirky Haruno clan, who passes the unhurried days trying to realize their ambitions. As Mom (Satomi Tezuka) attempts to revive her career, her hypnotherapist hubby (Tomokazu Miura) practices on the family. Meanwhile, their pubescent son (Takahiro Sato) feels the pangs of love, and their 6-year-old daughter (Maya Banno) grapples with a pesky dopplegänger.
It’s been a few years since I’ve watched Fanny and Alexander, but didn’t quite see this connection:
The Taste of Tea (茶の味 Cha no Aji ) is the third film by Japanese writer and director Katsuhito Ishii. The film is concerned with the lives of the Haruno family, who live in the countryside north of Tokyo. It has been referred to as a “surreal” version of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. It was a selection of the Cannes Film Festival.
From Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times:
A bit of patience is required to get through “The Taste of Tea,” but patience is often rewarded, and it certainly is by this droll and oddly touching film by Katsuhito Ishii. The movie is a family portrait as painted by a moderately demented Cubist: the family involved is nothing like yours, yet somehow, in its fractured way, exactly like yours.
Through a series of vignettes that are sometimes linked, sometimes not, we get to know the Harunos, who live quietly in the Japanese countryside. The most visually interesting is young Sachiko (Maya Banno), who is followed around by a giant version of herself, which she thinks she can get rid of if only she can manage to do a back flip on the horizontal bar.
The most emotionally interesting is Hajime (Takahiro Sato), a teenage boy who is prone to developing crushes and has a knack for being a bystander during strange interludes. (Two people dressed in cartoonish space gear board a train he is on; in a restaurant, the couple across from him discuss whether the woman should have her breasts enlarged.)
But a description someone gives of a song involved in one of the film’s many detours neatly summarizes the movie itself: “It’s more cool than weird, and it stays in your head.”
Never weird just to be weird, just weirdly intriguing. Minor warning: there’s a sequence which involves human excrement as a plot device, complete with a sample. I happened to be eating popcorn just as this scene began, so averted my gaze. Only lasted a couple moments, but perhaps you are less squeamish than me.Footnotes:
- and I consider this a good thing, but your milage may vary [↩]