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Cafe Lumiere [Import]

Yo Hitoto , Tadanobu Asano , Hsiao-Hsien Hou    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 21.91 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"Cafe Lumiere" is the homage that Hou Hsiao-hsien, a Taiwanese director, paid to Yasujiro Ozu, a Japanese director renowned for the way in which he managed to depict the dynamics of family life and the inner life of his characters.

Did he succeed? I think so, due to the fact that he manages to put the spectator in the place of Yoko, a young woman that is pregnant but doesn't feel like marrying her boyfriend, a grown man that remains too attached to his mother. As we watch "Cafe Lumiere", we want to know what she thinks, and how she is going to react to the new development in her life. The spectator is also interested in her friend, a bookstore owner that seems romantically interested in Yoko, and that has an unlikely but strangely poetic hobby.

Are you likely to enjoy this movie? I really don't know, because "Café Lumiere" is a peculiar movie, the kind that some love, but others hate. I can tell you that it is a beautifully made film that pays extraordinary attention to little details, but that has an extremely open ending. Can you like that kind of film? According to your answer, you will know what to do...

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -

PS: I liked "Café Lumiere" well enough to give it at least 3 stars out of 5.
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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and Subtle Feb. 8 2006
By Amy E. C. - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very different kind of storytelling. Everything is shown, almost nothing is told. You have to be keen to pick up the clues, but the scenes are all so quiet that it's too easy to think nothing is happening. Often, even the placement of the camera is telling you something.

It's a slow, gentle, slice-of-life look at one modern woman's relationships. Not for everyone.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film; definitely a work of art. March 4 2009
By Martin Montana - Published on Amazon.com
In the special presentation segment, an interview with the director,
Hou Hsiao-hsien in Taiwan, he comments that Japanese viewers felt he strongly captured the essence of Japanese cultural life. The wonder of this film is it's subtlety in showing the aesthetic of the characters. Woody Allen for instance exaggerates characters and focuses on the dysfunction and weaknesses of the characters. Here, the characters are faced with the dilemma of having a life, but also facing an unexpected pregnancy. The don't, however whine and complain or have psychological breakdowns.
As cinema, this is a 5 star gem. All of the visuals are magnificent.
This accomplishment was not accidental; much planning and re-shooting of scenes was required to make this film look so easy. As another reviewer mentioned, the title has historical reference to the Lumiere brothers as pioneers in film; and the train sequences both visually and audio are wonderful. I am curious if a foley artist was used for some of the sounds inside the train or if they were dubbed in from real life.
Re Ozu, the clips shown in the special segments, imo were much more harsh, crass, and unevolved aesthetically than the subject film.
2.0 out of 5 stars The Anti-Ozu July 10 2014
By AliGhaemi - Published on Amazon.com
Selected people in the West know Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. They generally agree that the director's films are icons of emotional filmmaking. Watch his Tokyo Story (The Criterion Collection), for instance, without your eyes welling up and you might be made of stone.

Cafe Lumiere is a film commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Ozu. The old familiar Studio Shochiku logo - under whose banner Ozu filmed many classics - depicting Mount Fuji appears at the beginning of Cafe Lumiere. The next two thematic shots are emblematic of Ozu. The sights of trains chugging along and an unextraordinary girl (Yoko played by Japanese pop singer Yo Hitoto whose song is heard here) are emblematically Ozu. One sees the trains, the girl, sights and sounds of Japan and interior shots. They even borrow foodstuff and utensils from the neighbours (or landlord here) as in Tokyo Story. That is where the comparisons stop however. In particular, where Ozu's tangible emotions were better than any in the history of cinema Hsiao-hsien Hou's Cafe Lumiere is in fact the opposite. Apparently, stationary tatami shots alone a masterpiece do not make. More on this a little later.

Yoko is back from Taiwan and carries news. She has been teaching Japanese in Taiwan and simultaneously researching Taiwanese composer Jiang Wenye. Beyond that, there is little one would call a plot. Nothing much happens and the film progresses and ends as it began, which is casually and for no good reason. The sights of Tokyo trains, and snippets of Takasaki where she hails from and her family still lives, take prominence in a tale of indifference and lackadaisical modernity. If routine human behaviour and norms are interesting then Cafe Lumiere wins. Indeed, the actors admit to a lack of rehearsals as the director enforced little practise and opted for long shots in which he invited the cast to simply be themselves in lieu of scripted acting. From this comes an everyday disengagement that is the hallmark of this film. Whereas with Ozu emotions are thick and palpable and stretch out from the screen to affect the viewer in Cafe Lumiere we find unfeeling, barren, asexual disengagement. This might be the director's aim - one constantly sees trains on divergent tracks either travelling in opposite directions or crisscrossing in Ochanomizu - to show how Ozu's forebodings of a changing Japan have now come to pass and nothing means anything where parents are powerless and the younger generation cares less. What is sure, however, is Cafe Lumiere evokes complete dismal detachment. And that is why its comparisons to Ozu's body of work is minimal only and superficial at best.

If storyline and gripping involvement are as far away in this film as musicality is from a rap album what else is there? For Tokyo enthusiasts there are clear shots of Tokyo train locales and street cars. The bookstore is near Minowabashi Station. Yoko is at the Nippori Station on the Keisei line in Arakawa where she rents a locker and at Koenji when walking by and visiting a book store. Viewers also see train bridges in Ginza, a clear shot of Senzoku-ike (station) entrance and the Ochanomizu Station, which has an interesting name. She also travels to Takasaki and is picked up at that city's train station. It is ideal for a train enthusiast like her friend Hajime-chan (played by Tadanobu Asano) who incidentally recently has gained prominence through his Hollywood adventures. The ordinary sights of Japan and the passersby are almost more interesting than the meagre script.

Another thing bears mentioning. The film was financed by the studio to reminisce Ozu, but why a Taiwanese director was brought in is somewhat questionable and especially given the debatable comparisons and result. In the DVD extras the director devotes time to his appreciation of Ozu. Hsiao-hsien Hou, in turn, cast Yo Hitoto who is half-Taiwanese and made her quest of a Taiwanese artist the subplot. Also in Cafe Lumiere is Kimiko Yo (who can be seen in the superlative Departures) who is an actress of Taiwanese background in Japan.

Cafe Lumiere is not alone in contemporary Japanese cinema in moving slowly or skewing convention or plot, but and as much as one might casually enjoy following and observing Yoko as she goes about her day, Cafe Lumiere had set itself up by associating itself with Ozu and is ultimately just mundane.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ode on so many levels Feb. 13 2013
By Paul Allaer - Published on Amazon.com
Movie: 3.5 stars; Bonus materials: 4.5 stars

"Cafe Lumiere" (2003 release from Japan; 104 min.) starts off with informing us that this movie is a homage to the centenary of the birth of famed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. As the movie then stars, we follow a young woman, Yoko, as she lives her daily life. She takes care of her (very small) apartment in Tokyo. She goes to visit her parents in suburban Tokyo. She is following up on leads for a story she wants to write about a Taiwanese composer Jiang Wen-Ye, who ncame to Japan at a young age (and whose work is featured on the soundtrack). She even reveals that she is pregnant and has no intention to marry the baby-daddy, a far-away boyfriend in Taiwan. She also befriends a bookshop owner who in his spare time loves to record the sounds of the trains and tramcars in the vast public transportation system in Tokyo.

Several comments: the movie may puzzle some, as seemingly not much is happening, other than we follow Yoko in her daily life. But notice how much time is spent on the trains and tramways transportation system in Tokyo, which the director brings onto the screen at times almost like a ballet, just mesmorizing. But this movie should NOT be viewed in isolation. If you are, like I was, more or less ignorant about Japanese director Ozu, by all means make sure to check out the bonus materials of this DVD release, including interviews with the director and the actress portraying Yoko. Most essential of all is the bonus documentary called "Metro Lumiere", a 75 min. French documentary that delves into the nitty gritty of Japanese director Ozu, and how Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien became involved in this and ultimately directed the movie. After having seen the actual movie, I thought this documentary was simply fantastic in bringing new perspectives, and in that sense I rate it higher than the movie itself. A must-see for movie buffs.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite OZU Oct. 15 2012
By hawnarch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I purchased this dvd mostly to boost my collection of films directed by Hou Hsiao Hsien. The opening shot says the film was made to mark the centenary of Yasujiro Ozu's birth and thus is made in the style of Ozu's most famous films. Better reviewers than me and film essayists have captured the essence of Ozu films in words. Thus the slow pacing of this film did not surprise me. But I rate it as "not quite Ozu" because I think Hou's film lacked one of the major features of Ozu films that I enjoy. Being a studio director Ozu had a popular stable of studio actors to cast in his films. Ozu could cast Chishu Ryu as a strong silent father and Setsuko Hara as a shy thoughtful daughter. The popularity and screen personae of Ozu's actors made the slow pacing of his films still enjoyable and understandable to a general audience. Not so with Hou's casting. Tadanobu Asano is a fine actor, but his screen personae is completely at odds with being the owner of a second hand bookstore. Yo Hitoto, being a singer I am frankly unaware of, lacks the charisma projected by a star like Setsuko Hara. I suspect that Ozu's films were popular because the cast was popular and the general audience quietly tolerant to see what would become of their favorite stars. Casting an "unknown" actress in the main female role seemed to deprive the film of much potential.

I did rate the dvd as a three-star because it has good extras. The French-made extra feature of Hou and his film staff is English subtitled and insightful. Aside from what I thought of the film itself, the purchase was a good addition to a Hou Hsia Hsien film collection.
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