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Kiyoshi Kurosawa is the Japanese film-maker known for his horror movies in the 90s, and the excellent drama Tokyo Sonata from 2009 about a salaryman who loses his job, but still keeps leaving the house each morning in his suit because he can’t bear to confess the truth to his wife.
His newest film is a sweet, sad, mysterious film in a vein of docu-realism and it really grew on me, largely due to the transparently emotional and sensitive performance of its young lead, Atsuko Maeda, who plays Yoko, a young TV reporter filming what appears to be a light travel programme in Uzbekistan. She goes to Samarkand and Tashkent with her crew, and does everything asked of her by the director, doggedly shooting silly items – including having to take repeated rides on a dangerous-looking fairground attraction that she clearly hates. But she rebels a little by asking if they can film her buying a tethered goat, so she can release it, a gesture that gets her into all sorts of trouble with locals – as does her attempt to film in restricted areas.
Her gentle interpreter, Temur (Adiz Rajabov), has a crush on Yoko (he is obviously downcast by the news that she has a fiance back home). He reveals to the crew that he was inspired to learn the Japanese language by the remarkable history of the Navoi theatre in Tashkent, which was built by Japanese PoWs during the second world war, the prisoners moreover responsible for the exquisite wall paintings.
It is here that Kurosawa creates a startling, fantasy sequence in which Yoko – who yearns to be a singer – performs the Japanese version of Édith Piaf’s Hymne à l’Amour, whose lyric about going to the ends of the Earth gives the film its title. I’m not sure what exactly this intriguing film adds up to, but it is strangely, unexpectedly involving and touching.
• To the Ends of the Earth is available on Mubi from 11 November.
Source: The Guardian
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