Around the World When You Were My Age review – going nowhere fast | Documentary films

I couldn’t make friends with this film, an indulgent, self-conscious essay-memoir movie from director Aya Koretzky. It is about her Japanese father Jiro, who in 1970 took off from his home town of Yokohama and travelled through Europe, north Africa, the Middle East and the US, before settling in Portugal, where Aya was born. He assiduously recorded his travels with photos and made pleasant, anodyne remarks in his journal, which are read aloud here. (“These buildings are amazing”; “The man who created this must have had an amazing spiritual drive”; “America is different from Europe; it seems more liberal and free.”)

At the beginning, the film shows the elderly Jiro digging up his father’s buried trove of prints and negatives (did he really bury them or is it a conceit?) and then we go through the pictures, with occasional sound effects and accompanying faux Super-8 footage: a mannerism too prevalent in documentaries now. But Jiro’s comments are frankly not especially interesting, and he remains elusive and opaque in ways that are unrewarding for the viewer.

Exasperatingly, quite a few of the photographs originally taken portrait-style are given an anti-clockwise quarter-turn to fit horizontally into the movie-screen’s landscape frame (as if wrongly placed in a slide projector, or shoved into an album any-old-how) and you find yourself tilting your head on one side to look at the image. It is a pointless, supercilious affectation. And the photos themselves are sometimes resonant, sometimes not.

There is one moment when the film comes alive, when Jiro is talking about the rackety old car that he has been travelling around in: a German-made Taunus, which Jiro is shown affectionately posing with. Maybe these pictures could have been the basis of a more interesting static installation or exhibition.

• Around the World When You Were My Age is on Mubi from 28 May.

Source: The Guardian

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