Naomi Kawase's HOTARU

Jasper Sharp
Tue Feb 6 04:13:25 EST 2001

I didn't realise that there were two films.
Anyway, here's a brief synopsis of Naomi Kawase's film from the Rotterdam
Film Festival website:

(try this link maybe:
shtml?en+116145+326368+11604+film_programme )

"Sensitive and psychologically sound portrait of the relationship between
two people who try to conquer the setbacks in their existence in order to
enter a new phase in life.

Daiji is a potter in the town of Nara. Ayako works as striptease dancer and
shares an apartment with her eldest sister Kyoko and a friend. Daiji and
Ayako fall madly in love with each other, but just happen to be in the
middle of a very difficult time right now. Daiji's Grandpa has just died and
Ayako has just broken off her previous serious relationship and also had an
abortion. She didn't have an easy life anyway: after her parents' divorce,
her mother committed suicide. She decides to return to her home village
after many years to see her grandma, but just before she arrives, the old
woman dies. When she returns to the city, her sister turns out to have an
incurable form of cancer. Daiji and Ayako try to come to terms with the
setbacks and enter a new phase in their lives. Kawase, whose films Suzaku
and Mange-kyo have previously been screened by the festival, tries bit by
bit to penetrate her characters' world of sensations, in a film largely made
up of hand-held shots. In Hotaru, she investigates themes such as tradition
and memory in a story that runs parallel to her own in some respects: Kawase
grew up in the same area and, after her parents' divorce, she was brought up
by her grandparents. All her features and documentaries focus on the
relationship between young and old and the nature of family relationships. "

The film, I thought, looked like one of Eric Rohmer's later films. Very
naturalistically shot, with long static takes of improvised dialogue. The
main actress is a non-professional, but the cast is so accomplished that
generally it blurs the line between fiction and documentary; you'd be
convinced you are watching a real couple. The film was shot over the course
of a year in Nara, and a great deal is made of the different seasons - the
same landscapes are shown in Spring then Summer, and then Autumn, giving a
nice feeling of progression. It's a lovely film, but rather gruelling at 164
minutes long.
Still, I'd love to see it again.

-----Original Message-----
From: Aaron Gerow [mailto:gerow at]
Sent: 06 February 2001 06:11
To: KineJapan
Subject: Re: On the subject of Rotterdam...

>The trailer for Hotaru is currently playing before Inugami and Otogirisou 
>(at Virgin Cinemas at least).  I was almost tricked into thinking it was a 
>sequel to "Poppoya", with its wintery landscapes and grizzled old Takakura 
>Ken to the fore.  The actual content of the film remains a mystery though, 
>as all the viewer had to go on was some very trite generic tag-line copy. 

This is a different movie and the fact it is called Hotaru is 
infuriating.  Toei, after the success of Poppoya, decided to make another 
film with Takakura, but for some reason they decided to call it Hotaru, 
even though Kawase's film had already been completed and had shown at 
festivals.  OK, the Japanese characters are different, Ken's film is ???
 while Kawase's is ???, and they refer to different things, Ken's to 
the firefly and Kawase to the ceremony of letting fire embers fall at a 
temple.  But this is only going to spark confusion.  Who will benefit 
from this I don't know--maybe some middle agers will go to Kawase's film 
expecting to see Ken-chan.  But it is a disservice to customers and to 

Aaron Gerow
Yokohama National University
KineJapan list owner
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