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Archive for the ‘John Cromwell’ Category

Snow Falling On Cedars

06 Feb

Snow Falling On Cedars –­ directed by Scott Hicks. Mystery. 127 minutes Color 1999.

★★★

The Story: A Japanese fisherman is accused of the murder of an American fisherman, and the former lover of the Japanese fisherman’s wife may know the truth.

The movie opens with an alluring shot of the American fisherman out at sea barely visible in a thick fog. Into it one peers, with all the need to know one possesses.

Other scenes follow – a still boat on a bay of Pudget Sound surrounded by still trees and colossal skies.

Other scenes equally exquisite follow one upon the other.

Yet none of the expectations continually before us in these displays of beauty are supported by the material underlying them in the human interactions also displayed.

The principal fault is not just the casting of Ethan Hawke who does not have sufficient character to carry a film. (I confess, I also find his face hard to look at.)

Everyone else is perfectly cast, John Cromwell as the canny judge, Richard Jenkins as the hemming-and-hawing sheriff, and Sam Shepard as the editor with probity. James Rebhorn as the hard-driving D.A., Youki Kudoh as the loyal wife, and the ambiguous-eyed Rick Yune as the accused fisherman. Max Von Sydow is delicious as his defense lawyer.

The director has also co-written the piece, and therein lies the fault, for he is blind to see that the Japanese are all presented from the outside, and that this cannot be. They must be presented from the inside. The TV series Tremé is a perfect example of a movie in which exotic cultures are presented inside-out; you see them in relation to the world around them. But presenting the ill-treatment of the Japanese-American population during and after World Ward II from the outside never invites us in and reduces their tragedy and their story to a polemic. Oh, too bad, we say. What we need to say is nothing: we need to be them. We need to say, “Ow! That hurt!”

A good deal of time is given over to the romance of Hawke and Kudoh when young, and because all of it is conventional none of it convinces. It has plenty of environment and no eccentricity. Without this properly established we cannot much care what Hawke is going through.

The director points out three mysteries in the film, but he is telling a whopper. There is only one. He also points out that Hawke has only one arm. Because the presentation of it was not properly introduced, we had to be told. These are things we shouldn’t have to be told. They should be self-evident. Instead, we are betrayed by the allusive. The title is one such allusion. Snow? Yes. Cedars? Where? Perhaps that’s the fourth mystery.

 
 
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