Archive for June 30th, 2012

The Funeral (1984)

Shokichi Amamiya is a difficult 69-year-old man, married to Kikue. He dies suddenly of a heart complaint, and it falls to his daughter Chizuko and son-in-law Wabisuke Inoue to organise the funeral at their house. Among other things, the family have to choose a coffin, hire a priest, hold a wake, learn formal funeral etiquette from a video and hold the service itself. During the three days of preparation, various tensions within the family are hinted at, such as resentment of a rich but stingy uncle, Inoue’s affair with a younger woman, and possibly an affair the dead man himself had with a female croquet player.

This movie shows the preparations for a traditional Japanese funeral. It mixes grief at the loss of a husband and father with wry observations of the various characters as they interact during the three days of preparation. It’s a wonderful comedy full of subtle humour. At times you’ll laugh at the characters such as the older brother who gets all confused which way his dead brother’s head is facing in his coffin at home and then there are emotionally poignant moments which may or may not bring the viewer to tears. Naturally because I’m not completely up to speed on Japanese culture there are probably some jokes which has gone over my head. I did chuckle though at the scene when the phone goes off in the middle of the important part of a prayer service. A man tries to get up to pick up the phone but collapses on the floor due to his legs having gone dead from kneeling on the floor too much. The rest of the family try their best not to laugh out loud and disrupt the service. There are other fabulous moments that stand out in this dark comedy.

The Funeral was the writing and directing debut of Itami Juzo, and was an enormous success in Japan winning several awards. I’ve seen Tampopo by the same director a long long time ago. He does a fantastic job in showing us the ridiculous, selfish but also loving and emotional behaviour of the family. From the acting viewpoint, the pick of the bunch from the entire cast has to be the woman who plays the dead man’s wife. She gives such a moving performance.

Overall I found this movie to be dramatic and touching and it’s a great look at how the Japanese people deal with death with a humourous twist. Recommended.

I can’t seem to find a trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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