Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Kamome Diner (2006) @ かもめ食堂

"Wanna try our kopi luak?
At a glance:
The people from the Land Of The Rising Sun tryin to carve out a life in the Land Of The Midnight Sun – it can't get more ironic than that! Yet, Kamome Diner かもめ食堂 isn’t about dissent or conflict; instead it’s about celebratin the wonderful details in life which escape us every day. You can read on its official website (still up today!) that the story is based on a novel written by popular writer Yoko Mure who apparently has countless female fans for her emotional portrayal of people livin modest lives. Mure wrote the full-length novel in response to the film’s idea for production. It’s said to be an unusual novel, which fully captures the atmosphere of the city’s street corner, although Mure herself has never been to Finland (which by the way, is apparently the closest European country to Japan via a 10 hour flight from Tokyo). Sachie (Satomi Kobayashi) is a Japanese woman who runs a diner (she insists it’s not a restaurant because "that’s too formal") in Helsinki, Finland. Nobody visits her Kamome (Japanese for 'seagull') diner except Tommi, a young blonde Finn who loves Japanese manga. Soon Sachie meets Midori (Hairi Katagiri), an awkward woman who lands in Helsinki with no real reason. The two make quick friends as business start to pick up due to their patient, unassumin approach to the locals. When lost 'tourist' Masako (Masako Motai) joins the fray, these Japanese women truly find the meanin of life, as they realise that everythin which is important usually isn’t!
Bad news on the doorstep:
None, really. I could write that synopsis a hundred times but still wouldn’t capture the precise flavour of the film. That’s because Kamome Diner is such a quiet little gem of a movie that offers somethin for every kind of viewer. It’s drama, it’s comedy and sometimes even social commentary – but whatever it is, it’s very gentle and dignified, never succumbin to pushy, message-driven plot devices. The performances here are top-notch, my favourite being the maternal Masako Motai (fabulous in director Naoko Ogigami’s first feature film Yoshino’s Barber Shop – but take nothin away from the cast because everyone delivered a satisfyin dimension to the film.
Perennial wonderment:
How do you sing the theme song to the Gatchaman cartoon (G-Force to Malaysian kids in the 80s)?
Reminds me of:
Director Naoko Ogigami's other movie that I enjoyed - Yoshino's Barber Shop (2004) @ バーバー吉野. This one's better, though.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
With its host of colourful, quirky and mostly rootless characters, it’s difficult not to find yourself fixated on the story, despite there not being much of one! Everythin happens by chance and people come largely unexplained. This makes it fun to watch because the character build-up is more gradual and natural, much like how we talk to strangers. The entire film could be said to be a conversation between strangers – and we don’t need to be bogged down by the harsh realities of distrust. The characters take each other as they are – and invite us to do the same. Shot with such delightful and rich observations on geography and society, the film has immense international appeal. Kamome Diner opens doors and builds bridges, invitin people in for a look at what’s on the cultural menu, without askin for too much thought or attention. We feel optimistic about life again and for once, feel-good cinema never felt so easy to believe.
★★ 1/2

Trailer for the curious: