Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Maho, Tsutomu Niwa, Etsuko Kimata, Haruo Hanahara, Shunsuke Kabeya
Director: John Williams
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Naomi, a seventeen year-old city brat from Nagoya, finds her world turned upside down after the breakup of her parents' marriage. Packed off to the country, she reluctantly works at her aunt's inn until being asked to care... more »
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Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 05/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What an absolutely treasured find! This exquisite piece from an English teacher in Japan (making his film debut) is a somewhat slow, simple tale that nonetheless captures the gorgeous environs of Horiacho -- a relatively untouched, uncommercialized region of Central Japan -- with a warm and captivating glaze!The theme is fairly unpretentious. Our protagonist, Naomi, is a forlorn, rebellious seventeen year old girl from just about any Japanese city (in our case, Nagoya) whose parents bear the brunt of urban filial discord so common in contemporary Japan. She smokes, dabbles in forbidden activities (not uncommon for teenage girls in Japan), plays truant from school, and rattles off obscenities in front of her parents when they question her actions. As a corrective penalty, she is packed off to spend some time with her grandmother in the countryside. Which naturally she initially detests. But things come around, she comes of age and to terms with her world, and discovers the follies of her own rebellions. The movie's delicate handling of old versus the new is fascinating. The moments when the girl and her grandmother interact brim with common wisdom and affection. The girl's actions, though alarming to people not in the know, do not come across as cheap or startling. You end up caring for pretty much every character in the film, including a village boy who delivers chicken. John Williams' script and direction are focused and allow the natural grace of the tale to unfold. But what absolutely swept me off my feet was the stunning cinematography of Yoshinobu Hayano that bathed the quieter, more introspective moments with glowing light and deep shadow. Not something you'd expect from a semi-indie banner, especially in a debut! Overall, while it may be a somewhat lax-paced movie for modern tastes, I found that it unfolds delectably and reaches its credible resolutions quite effectively. Highly recommended if you're in any way interested in Japan."
Gentle film of a teenage girl's coming of age
avoraciousreader | Somewhere in the Space Time Continuum | 09/09/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Marvelous in many ways, this film is confusing at times -- intentionally, pretentiously so, according to the director's own commentary. If any director was poised to make a film based on both an intimate knowledge of Japanese culture (from years teaching in Japan) and an understanding of what the person in the West understands about Japan (and what needs explication), that would have been Williams. It's a shame he did not take that opportunity but instead tried to make a strictly Japanese film (of a subject apparently already well covered recently in non-exported movies).
"Firefly Dreams" is essentially a Japanese version of the Korean "The Way Home" -- bratty, spoiled, modern teen Naomi (Maho Ukai, credited as Maho), with her orange knit dress and bleached hair, is sent to help her relatives who run a country inn when her parents' marriage is on the skids. She must cope with a simple cousin Yumi, and gets the task of helping the elderly Mrs. Koide (Yoshie Minami) who is losing her memory. In the process she become .. adult, human.
Many sad things ensue, which I won't detail since that would give away what plot there is. In spite of it all, Naomi makes a genuine friend of Mrs. Koide (as well as cousin Yumi), intrigued by her mysterious past, including a possible appearance in an obscure film, "Among the Fireflies". The interplay between newcomer Maho and veteran stage actress Minami is a pleasure to behold. As the film ends, Naomi has found a copy of this film and we watch her watching the young Mrs. Koide.
Despite its lack of originality, the story is touching nonetheless and holds the interest. The acting is good to excellent, and the cinemetography of the beautiful, unspoiled region of central Japan, Horaicho (in Aichi prefecture, only a couple of hours from Nagoya; definitely on my list of hoped for vacation spots!) is a joy to watch. The DVD commentary track is educational, both of the director's ego and of background for the film. (Most of the cast,incidentally, was made up by local casting.)
Despite my carps this is an enjoyable and beautiful film. You might want to wait until it's on the 5-day rental shelf, though (or,heck, go out and buy it), so you have time to watch the film, the commentary, then go back and watch the film again.
The best kind of Japanese movie...
Ma-Humorless | Japan | 07/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...subtle, slow-moving, so beautifully shot, with understated humour and sparse dialog so you have to read between the lines (a bit *too* much, hence the lack of a 5th star).
I watched it twice straight through, the second time to hear the director's voice-over, which is pretty interesting too.
It is a film of its time - its time being the late 90s or early 2000s (Oh that hair! Those fashions!) - but the basic messages are eternal (as are the whining complaints by the girl...).
It's a good "Coming-of-age" film for teens, as well as for those who are nostalgic for Japan.
The story is described in other reviews, so never mind that, but although I like that you have to work harder to understand certain things that happen in the story-
(at some point I thought, "God he's making us really work for this, he MUST be a teacher!" and indeed he is...)
-I was left especially frustrated re. the father and what happens to him. A bit too oblique.
All in all a lovely film though. Nice to see a bit of unspoiled Japan as well!
I have heard that, and can understand why, there are those who wouldn't be able to sit through it out of boredom. It's not an action movie, and don't put it on if you're feeling any pent-up aggression!
But it's a great film."
Count Zero | Yokohama, Japan | 10/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Firefly Dreams is touchingly observed, lovingly filmed and depicts nuanced characters whose dramas will resonate beyond the rural Japanese setting. Other reviewers will give you the storyline; the director (not an English teacher, a Welshman teaching Film in a Japanese university) was nominated for a Best Director Award by the Japanese Academy. The critical acclaim and international awards deservedly heaped on Firefly Dreams show why his second soon-to-be released feature is already creating a buzz. This is a filmmaker whose career is about to go stellar, and a look at this moving, assured debut will reveal why. The last shot is one of the most cathartic moments I have ever witnessed on film. This is a must-see film for fans of Japanese and international cinema."