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Snow Falling on Cedars (Widescreen)

Ethan Hawke , Max von Sydow , Scott Hicks    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 12.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

Australian director Scott Hicks's follow-up to his widely beloved Shine comes as a small shock. Based on David Guterson's bestselling novel, Snow Falling on Cedars is far removed from the character-driven, pure storytelling of Shine and a comparative plunge into moody atmospherics. Action insinuates itself through the director's determined eye for watercolor composition and free-floating perspective, like random shoots of new growth in an overwhelming rain forest. It's impossible to be complacent as a viewer because Hicks's meditative style paradoxically forces one to locate and make the story happen internally.

The approach makes good aesthetic sense in that Guterson's story couches courtroom drama in dreamy textures, and Hicks is determined to reflect that even if it means turning an audience's idea of narrative on its head. He also gets a lot of help from the weather in the Pacific Northwest: the setting is one of Washington State's San Juan Islands, where rain embraces earth and sky in a singular, introverted personality. There, a Japanese American war hero (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) stands accused of murdering a white fisherman in the years following World War II. His wife (Youki Kudoh) is the former childhood sweetheart and lover of a local newspaperman (Ethan Hawke) whose bitterness over the loss--as well as his helplessness during the internment of Japanese Americans, and the crusading legacy of his journalist father (Sam Shepard)--prevents him from coming to the defense of the accused man.

Layered emotions, layered sensations, layered clouds. This is historical fiction of a sort that works best as an experience of time's relativity: flowing, stopping, trickling. Ironically, the film's most commercial element, the trial, is the least interesting aspect, though old pro Max Von Sydow makes those scenes great fun as a wily defense counsel. --Tom Keogh


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars LUSH ADAPTATION OF DIFFICULT BOOK July 16 2004
Format:DVD
One cannot deny the awesome beauty of some of the camerawork in this adaptation of David Guterson's SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS. SNOW FALLING was a slow, lethargic, but overall compelling novel; the movie version is the same. Scott Hicks' direction is frustrating yet magnificent at times. For instance, in Max von Sydow's brilliant summation, the camera never leaves Max's face, and the sequence is overwhelming due to the power of von Sydow's speech. It's a key highlight of the movie. However, earlier on, Hicks tries the overdubbing of too many key scenes; for instance, when Hasue is reading her letter, he overdubs it several times, and it becomes irritating rather than moving; he tries this on other occasions and as a gimmick, it doesn't improve the overall effect. The acting ensemble is marvelous: Ethan Hawke, though not as compelling as he should have been, does well in displaying his anger, hurt, frustration and love; Youki Kodoh as the wife of the accused is wonderful, her spritely demeanor hiding a gigantic love for her husband and for Hawke; Rick Yune (Die Another Day) shows the difficulty in expressing emotion as was taught by his father; James Rebhorn as the prosecutor is great, one of his best roles; James Cromwell does well as the judge in a poorly adapted role; Sam Shepard is very good as Hawke's idealistic father; Celia Weston evokes the nasty prejudice of the time as the victim's coldhearted mother; Richard Jenkins is good as the sheriff caught up in something he's not used to--murder; and Eric Thal is good as the victim, should have had a little more screen time to flesh out his role, and make us feel a little more for him.
SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS is a lush, beautifully done film, with an Oscar worthy von Sydow performance; it's hard to stay with it, but if you do, I think you'll be rewarded.
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Format:VHS Tape
I can attest to the adage that the first person one falls in love with is forever, regardless of whether that person gets married to someone else or not. Well, in Snow Falling On Cedars, that sort of past comes back to haunt young reporter Ishmael Chambers when he discovers the husband of his first love Hatsue is being tried for the murder of fisherman/husband/father Carl Heine. The case for the prosecution is that Kazuo, Hatsue's husband, murdered Carl with a flat wooden object, such as a kendo stick (wooden swords used in stick fighting), and all because of the loss of seven acres of land owned by Kazuo's father when Kazuo's family was interned during WW2. Kazuo had demanded the return of the land, but because of two payments missed, his family forfeited the land, which came into Carl's possession. He is defended by an elderly lawyer, Nels Gudmundsson (veteran Swedish actor Max von Sydow in a strong performance), who as a Scandinavian, detects the race issue here. Pearl Harbor has not been forgotten, in other words. All the while, Ishmael sits high up on the balcony of the trial room, observing the defendant and his wife. He is clearly still bitter about the past, as he might have ended up with Hatsue had not circumstances dictated otherwise. This bitterness is manifested when he sits on some information key to Kazuo's defense.
Set in the fishing village of San Piedro, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the film shuttles back and forth between the present, in the 1950's, and the past, in the late 30's to 40's. The film shows Ishmael falling in love with Hatsue Imada, a Japanese girl, and both their mothers disapproving of interracial relationships.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A black-and-white movie made in color ... March 22 2004
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Grim.
The title tells it all. The plot is already summed up quite tidily in other reviews. I would just add a few remarks.
English is not Kudoh Yuki's native language. In this movie she does one better than Meryl Streep by actually demonstrating mastery of an entire foreign language by speaking American English with an American accent. Of course, she was already good at it, but we have to remember that Hatsue, being born and bred on American shores, was a native speaker. I thought Kudoh was very convincing. Yes, acting is not all about utterances, and her facial expressions may have been formulaic to some point, but this movie is worth watching just for seeing Ms. Kudoh do her stuff.
And the movie had a profound message. Because of that and the fact that the story took place in a part of the world I was born in, I found the two hours generally satisfying.
Here and there I found the behavior of the characters mystifying - especially crowd behavior.
Why, for example, the silent march to the ferry dock? Forced evacuation of citizens based solely on race was truly a glaring violation of the Bill of Rights, but it was not mass genocide. The long walk scene was as drawn-out as it was grim. It featured a nagging bass in the soundtrack and dejected victims stunned to silence. Together they portrayed a stark black-and-white simplicity that I would question. I imagine that at least the children would still be children and think they were all taking part in some community outing. While the scene captured a certain psychological truth, it also was a bit too heavy-handed. We of the here-and-now know far too much and they knew way too little.
But the movie is definitely worth the time and money.
What I'd like to know, though, is why did they bother to shoot this in color?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
very, very good movie. really enjoyed it. Not disappointed at all with the choice I've made . Love conquer everything
Published 7 months ago by Terry D'Astous
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are the critics so clueless????
Hi, I just finished watching SFOC and I thought it was amazing. Why do the critics fawn all over horrible movies and blast good ones? I guess we'll never know. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunted by the past / poetic film - overwhelming photography
'Snow Falling on cedars' -adapted from David Guterson's novel- is about a murder trial, about racism and about a love that couldn't last. Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2003 by Pieter de Rooij
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth seeing, not buying
It is encouraging that in a growing number of ways, Americans are looking back and doing some self-criticism on issues like social and racial discrimination. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2003 by Dude
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel, Great Movie
Naturally, a movie is rarely as good as the novel, and Snow Falling on Cedars doesn't break this guideline. Read more
Published on July 3 2003 by Susan
1.0 out of 5 stars Marginalizes most interesting characters
It's not a bad film and is to be commended for powerfully capturing the forcing of Americans of Japanese descent into crudely made, wooden shacks in the middle of deserts or dry... Read more
Published on July 1 2003 by Miami Nights
4.0 out of 5 stars 7 of 10
One of the better grownup films lately; good drama, well acted, gorgeous cinema and music. A somewhat plodding pace but the rich cinematography helps a lot. Read more
Published on June 30 2003 by DWPC
1.0 out of 5 stars beautiful movie, flawed as history or mystery
This movie is stunningly beautiful, but unfortunately it lacks depth, historical accuracy, or suspense. Read more
Published on May 22 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Nice cinematography . . . nothing else
Some nice cinematography is wasted by an inane script full of historical inaccuracies, cliches, and stereotypes. Read more
Published on March 8 2003 by "iowanapple"
5.0 out of 5 stars Romance, Murder, and Post-Pearl Harbor Race Relations
With the serene backdrop of snow (a metaphor for recovering the purity and innocence of youth)lightly falling on majestic cedars, this work is an awesome example of cross-genre... Read more
Published on March 3 2003 by Dorion Sagan
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