The Taste of Tea

This 2003 movie, called Cha no aji in Japan, is an incredible film. The director, Katsuhito Ishii, implies that he has made a series of TV commercials; a comedy tied loosely together with coincidences that don’t have too deep a meaning. But I disagree. His skill as a director, whether he was working for a client with a TV spot, or on a full length feature, is plain to see by anyone who cares to look.
I love this movie.
It is quirky. It is breathtakingly photographed and the improbable special effects all work and build on a sense of wonder. The life of the Harunos, a family living in a rural area just north of Tokyo, is comfortable and seems normal but their interactions with each other and outsiders lead the audience to strange places.
A favourite part of the movie is where an Uncle tells the story about his first poop in the woods and what happens after. The narrator tells us, later, enough for us to put the sad and funny jigsaw together.
All of the acting is wonderful but special attention should be given to the 6 year old Maya Banno who is stunning. But the setting (the Japanese countryside) is so superb it really helps join everthing together. The grandfather played by Tatsuya Gashuin is done with a crazy grace and with such a presence that it’s easy to miss what else is going on with him in the picture. I dare anyone to watch him in the Mountain video without laughing.
The film may be a stream of consciousness but it is linked. The link may not be something I can clearly convey in words but it is still present and accessible even to someone who has never been to Japan. I watched it twice and watched the 90 minute ‘making of disc’ that came with the limited edition Library loan. But even my 9 year old, who seems to hate everything these days, liked it and wants us to get a copy. I do too.


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