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AFTER LIFE
1998 - Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan
17
Opening Shot

We hear two men talking as the camera tracks their feet walking up stairs [MONDAY] "This old man Yamada. All he talks about is sex... Sounds awful... Awful he seems so happy. I try to listen cheerfully but three days! Three days of that stuff. Give me a break... But he chose a vacation with his wife? ... Yeah, apparently that is what he wanted. Reconsidered at the last minute... Not a bad story... He sure took his time choosing. It's a look of hard work."

The Film

"What is the one memory you would take with you?" Hirokazu Koreeda's After Life is quite simply one of the most original and ultimately beautiful films I've ever seen. I absolutely love this film and consider among my personal favorites of all-time. This is a lovely film that through death captures the endless joys of living. Koreeda began his career with documentary filmmaking, and it is evident in his work. After Life is no exception as Koreeda effortlessly blends the two together to create an authentic yet dreamlike world. It's is in this dream-world (or the after life) that Koreeda observes the complex connection of memories and reality. Essentially the film examines the importance of personal memories by contrasting the imagined memory of the individual against a recreated memory. The result is a film that is equally haunting, touching, and poetic. After Life is also very funny, and there really is so much depth and originality to the film. Thought-provoking, reflective, and hopeful, After Life is a perfect film that I can not do justice with words.

The Filmmaker

With just four feature films to his credit, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda has already proven himself to be an emerging master. He rates among the most original artists in the world today. I believe his four features each to be great works that while unique from each other, share similar filmmaking style, themes, and influences. Koreeda originally wanted to become a writer, but after graduating from college he worked as an assistant director. Koreeda then began making documentary short films and this is represented in his fictional feature, which very often blend fiction and non-fiction together in the same film. Stylistically, his debut is obviously inspired by the great master filmmakers- Japan's Yasujiro Ozu and Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien (who was the subject of one of Koreeda's early documentaries). The film expresses themes of loss, grief, death, and memory, all of which have all since become definitive for Kore-eda. His second feature (1998's After Life) is one of truly original vision and again combines Koreeda's personal touch of documentary and fiction, as well as death and memories. Koreeda does this all with such an effortless approach and his films attain an equally haunting yet beautiful dreamlike world. While his debut feature used an extensive use of long static shots his 2004 film Nobody Knows used an intimate effect of extreme close-ups to quietly absorb the viewer into the films emotions and imagery. In 2008 Koreeda reached a master level of Ozu of Naruse with his subtle and personal masterpiece Still Walking, one finds the essence of the family dynamics and complexity with the effortless touch of a master. Koreeda's films are ultimately hopeful and compassionate even in the most heartbreaking of moments. After Still Walking, Koreeda may have become the true significant filmmaker of contemporary cinema.

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