Maborosi was Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first feature film.
BAMPFA’s Kore-eda retrospective, comprising seven evening screenings between May 2 and 18, is a soul-soothing invitation to discover both the universality and the complexity in the banality of everyday life.
Hirokazu Kore-eda landed on a lot of U.S. moviegoers’ radar for the first time just a few months ago, when his 2018 Cannes triumph, Shoplifters, became a word-of-mouth arthouse hit and nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. But the Japanese writer-director was known — and beloved — on these shores since his gorgeous debut feature, Maborosi, mesmerized audiences in 1995. An achingly sensitive portrait of a remarried woman still grieving and grappling with the suicide of her first husband five years earlier, Maborosi (May 2) deals (like most of Kore-eda’s movies) with the most profound yet invisible connections between human beings.
As great as it is to discover and connect with a filmmaker at the beginning of his or her career, it’s gratifying in a different way to first encounter them in mid-career and work backwards. BAMPFA’s Kore-eda retrospective, comprising seven evening screenings between May 2 and 19, is a soul-soothing invitation to discover both the universality and the complexity in the banality of everyday life. Kore-eda’s characters generally try to do the right thing, constrained as they are by ritualistic politeness and palpable awkwardness. If they are also territorial, defensive, selfish, and self-righteousness, well, that’s understandable given the difficult circumstances that Kore-eda thrusts them into. Still Walking (May 9) imagines an annual family reunion (with an abundance of jagged emotions) to commemorate a son’s death, while Like Father, Like Son (May 11) considers two sets of parents navigating the incredible and devastating revelation that their sons were switched at birth several years ago. If you’ve never seen After Life (May 5), treat yourself to Kore-eda’s one-of-a-kind 1999 marvel of memory, joy, redemption, and eternal satisfaction set in a halfway house-slash-movie studio for the newly dead. Arguably the director’s most accessible film, After Life is the rare crowd-pleaser that embraces the sublime rather than the sentimental.
Hirokazu Kore-eda: Reprise Screenings, May 2-18, BAMPFA, 2155 Center St., Berkeley, 510-642-0808, BAMPFA.org.
This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.