Thursday, October 26, 2017

Miss Hokusai (2015)

Stories tend to have a well-defined structure.  You set up all of the relevant details first.  Then, something happens to set the action in motion.  Stuff happens.  Usually it’s tense stuff, even in comedies.  Eventually, there’s a resolution where everything comes together.  This isn’t always the case, though.  It can be difficult to have a movie without a well-defined plot, although it’s been done.  Even with A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, there were many small, interrelated stories.  It was almost like a lot of short movies that had been strung together.

Miss Hokusai takes a similar approach.  The movie shows a young woman, O-Ei, and her father, Tetsuzo.  Both are painters; he’s established while she’s learning under him.  Both have worked on commissions, but she still has some learning to do before she’s at her father’s level.  The movie takes place over several months.  Scenes don’t seem to follow a single narrative.

For instance, O-Ei visits her sister, O-Nao, several times.  O-Nao is a girl who was born blind and sent to live with nuns.  Each visit, the sisters might visit a bridge or get something to eat or drink.  They talk of visiting their father, but Tetsuzo seems to want to keep his distance, which O-Ei seems to respect.  There are also several of Tetsuzo’s students coming and going.  In one scene, Tetsuzo, O-Ei and a student visit a brothel where they witness a woman having an out-of-body experience.

Father and daughter seem to compliment each other.  O-Ei is more outgoing where Tetsuzo seems more introverted.  Tetsuzo is more experienced, whereas O-Ei is still learning.  Throughout, Tetsuzo does work and O-Ei gets better.  She even has a commission of her own.  However, several aspects of her work, like erotic art, are said to need improvement. 

It’s difficult to review a movie like this.  It seems almost like the outtakes from another movie.  It’s as if there was enough material to make a coherent movie.  I could almost see this being part of a larger story.  Part of this may stem from the fact that the movie is based on a manga.  From what I’ve read, this is actually part of a larger story.  (The manga was based on the life of a real father/daughter team.)

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Anime and manga to rely as much on the visual aspect as it does on the script, and this movie does well with the visuals.  (I would hope so, as it’s about two artists.)  The lack of a clear antagonist didn’t bother me at all.  It was interesting just to watch the story go by.

Even though it’s anime, the movie did get a PG-13 rating.  Most of it seems to stem from the erotic art and trips to the brothel.  This is one of those cases where the rating seems appropriate.  I don’t think there would be anything too uncomfortable for teenagers and above.  (A little awkward for a few moments, maybe, but not uncomfortable.)  There is one scene where someone is sexually aggressive towards O-Ei and she relents.  It only lasted for one scene and didn’t seem to have an impact on the rest of the movie.

Overall, I’d recommend watching it.  However, this  is one of those movies where Netflix leaves me wanting.  I was able to watch the movie in Japanese with English subtitles.  (This doesn’t bother me, so I didn’t really try to mess around with settings.)  The thing I don’t like is not having special features.  This is a case where I’d want to know more about the movie and its background.  IMDb will only get you so far.  (Wikipedia did have some information on the real people that served as the basis for Tetsuzo and O-Ei, but still…)  If you have a good source of information on the history behind this movie, please let me know.

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