November 4, 20108:30pm

In 2009 this moving but often humorous film cleaned up at the Japanese Academy Awards and won Japan the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Masahiro Motoki (Longest Night in Shanghai, 2007, Bird People in China, 1998) won several Best Actor awards for his outstanding performance as an unemployed cellist who moves with his wife from the city back to his home town in the sticks to seek work. Answering a classified ad titled Departures for what he thinks is a travel agency, he finds himself employed in a low caste job in a funeral home, undertaking the painstaking ritual which cleans and prepares corpses for their burial and entry into the next life. (The original Japanese title Okuribito means the people who send off/away.)

The film was hugely successful in Japan, which the Director did not particularly anticipate, death being such a strongly taboo subject. It is loosely based on an autobiography written by Aoki Shinmon and took 10 years to make. The lead actor was an ex boy band heartthrob (all through the 80s), while lead actress Hirosue was a model and also sang on a tv show. Director Takita had previously specialised in soft porn.

This heartfelt, unpretentious, slyly funny Japanese film was worth waiting for.-Nicholas Barber, The Independent

I regard Departures as the most moving film I have ever seen commemorating the bonds between the living and the dead. Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

The music is lush and sentimental in a subdued way, the cinematography is perfectly framed and evocative, and the movie is uncommonly absorbing. Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

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Film Information
Release year: 2008
Running time:   130 mins
Directed by: Yojiro Takita
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Classification: 12A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Masahiro Motoki,
Tsutomu Yamazaki,
Ryoko Hirosue

Oscar Best Foreign Language Film,
10 Japanese Academy Awards including Best Film & Director

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